Best before dates have to do with food quality, not food safety. The date tells you when a food will be its freshest and tastiest, assuming it has been stored in ideal conditions. It doesn’t tell you if the food is safe to eat, either before or after that date – so always check for signs of spoilage regardless of the best before date. Food can be bought and eaten after the best before date though the flavor, texture, nutritional quality may be changed in some way.
A little less-than-fresh is often fine for things like cereal or crackers. Even something like yogurt, whether opened or not, can be safely eaten 7-10 days past the expiration date.
Unlike an expiry date, such as on a medication, canned and packaged food are often still safe to use past this date. Types of items could include crackers, canned veggies, cereal, jarred pasta sauce, etc as long as they haven’t been opened and there are no signs of damage or spoilage. The exception to this would be nutritional supplements or meal replacements – these foods do have expiration dates and should be followed.
It’s also important to note that people with weakened immune systems or existing health conditions should take extra caution and use foods before their best before date.
Signs of food spoilage:
- leaking, bulging or badly dented cans
- excess pressure when you open a car or jar (ie sound of air escaping or spurting liquid)
- signs of infestation
- change in texture – slimy, curdling, mushy or softer than usual
- change in colour
- unpleasant odor or taste
- signs of mold
- assuming mold is not part of the food as it is with blue cheese for example
- for hard cheeses, sections with mold can be safely trimmed 1-inch in from the mold
- for soft cheeses (such as cream, cottage), entire product should be thrown out if any mold is seen
And remember, a food may not smell or taste bad even when it is contaminated – never taste test a food to see if it has spoiled. When in doubt, it’s best to throw it out.