Food Policy

Quest Food Exchange Food Preservation & Sale

Quest’s official policy is to follow the “Durable Life Information on Food Products” fact sheet and the “Acts and Regulations” administered by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) for all food that is handled through Quest Food Exchange. The fact sheet can be found on the CFIA website at: Food Safety Fact Sheets. CFIA Acts and Regulations can be found on their site under Acts and Regulations. Food Safe Guidelines are also taken from useful resources such as “The Health Canada model for Food Safety in Food Banks” and “A Guide to Shelf Life” By Pallavi Gogoi, Business Week Magazine.

GUIDELINES:

Exceptions to the guidelines will need to be approved by the Executive Director and verified by the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority, Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), and the Fraser Health Authority.

Canned:

  • Cans should be free from rust, pitting, and dents especially at the rim and seam. Leaking or swollen cans should not be used and should be cleaned out and recycled.
  • Canned items should be stored below 23 degrees Celsius (75 degrees Fahrenheit).
  • Organizations typically use an average of two years for canned foods past their expiry date.
  • Acidity levels of different types of canned foods may vastly influence when and if a product should be consumed past its durable date.
  • After a year, though the food will not have spoiled, there is a steady loss of vitamins in canned vegetables and fruits. It is recommended that they be pulled off the shelves after 1 year.
  • Baby food is kept until the use-by date expires. There are no exceptions, and cans/jars should be cleaned out and recycled.

Packaged:

  • In a cool, dry storage place, cake mix, pasta, cereal, and cookies will last up to six months from the date of purchase.
  • Beverages are kept according to the manufacturers conditions, i.e. keep refrigerated.
  • Foods packaged other than for retail have a durable life of 90 days or less. A “best before” date, and storage instructions, must be declared in both French and English on any panel except the bottom of the container.
  • As a rule, non-potentially hazardous foods such as cereals or pasta will need judgment on whether they should be distributed past their expiry date.
  • One exception to the one year rule would be quinoa, which is a seed. It is highly nutritious and a good source of protein. But remember, like a lot of other seeds, it usually has a best by date and not an expiration date. Because of this, you can safely use it beyond the stamped best by date. Quinoa stored in a cool, dry and dark package can be safely eaten for up to three years. Any such exceptions will need to be approved by the Executive Director, and verified by local health authorities.

Dairy:

  • It is critical that potentially hazardous foods, such as dairy products, egg/egg products, tofu products, meat/meat products and poultry, are kept at a temperature of 4°C (40°F) or less, both before they are donated and at the food bank.
  • Milk usually carries a sell-by-date. That’s because it is affected by many things in the environment-it can lose vitamins when exposed to light, which is why it is usually packaged in opaque plastic or paperboard. It is recommended that dairy be pulled after the expiry date.
  • Properly refrigerated and handled, eggs are considered safe for consumption for 4 to 5 weeks beyond the sell-by date.
  • Hard cheeses can last up to 3 weeks after their production date; they can also be frozen up to 6 months.

Frozen:

  • All frozen items must be stored at temperatures of –18 degrees Celsius (0 degrees Fahrenheit) or less.
  • Frozen ground meat should be used within 3 months. Pork holds for 6 months. Beef, lamb, veal, and venison last 8 to 12 months.
  • Poultry and other birds last about 12 months in the freezer.

Perishables:

  • All fruits & vegetables can be judged by their look, texture, and smell. The better refrigeration of the product, the longer it can last.
  • Packaged fruits & vegetables have dates on them, but the condition is still judged by the look of the product, some packaged products can still be good past their “best before date.”

General Food Safety Tips

Food safety is paramount to Quest Food Exchange. Here are some general rules for both our clients who shop at our Not-For-Profit Grocery Markets and our partners who buy in bulk from us:

  • Keep Cold Foods Cold and Hot Foods Hot: Frozen and refrigerated product should be maintained at cold temperatures during transport if possible. They should also be delivered and stored as quickly as possible. Food that is exposed to the temperature danger zone between 4 to 60 degrees Celsius for more than 4 hours may become unsafe to eat. Be sure to monitor your coolers and freezers for maintaining the proper and safe temperatures too.
  • Never re-freeze thawed food: Occasionally, meats may be frozen prior to their best before date. Be sure to prepare the entire product immediately after thawing. Previously frozen foods should never be thawed and then re-frozen.
  • Inspect cans for damage: Discard bulging, rusted or severely dented cans with metal touching metal, opened or leaking packages and broken seals. If you notice items with these flaws, discard immediately.
  • Circulate items in your cupboards/refrigerator: Be sure to use the First In First Out (FIFO) method of stocking.
  • Keep up with Recalls: Please check your pantry, kitchen, storage area, etc. for these products.

Always err on the side of caution when you have any concerns about a product’s integrity or food safety. WHEN IN DOUBT, THROW IT OUT.

Product Dating

For more information about product dating, check out our blog entry on Best Before Dates.