Decoding ‘Best Before’ Dates

Quest volunteer Florence did a little sleuthing and cleared up some misconceptions about best before dates. Read on!

I always find it tricky to decipher the “best before” date on a pre-packaged food item. Does “MA” refer to March or May? Is it the year first or the day first? Is the food safe to eat after the “best before” date?

As long as the food is kept in proper storage conditions, it should still be consumable and not thrown away. The “best before” date is an indicator of freshness, not food safety. Dry products, such as dry pasta and seasonings, are unlikely to support growth of bacteria and can be kept months (a full year, in fact!) after the “best before” date. Even the makers of Hellmann’s Mayonnaise say that their product can be consumed 4 weeks after the “best before” date, provided it has been stored properly.

So don’t throw away food that is completely edible! Every year, 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted globally and some of that food is perfectly safe to eat, as long as it has been kept in proper storage conditions. By understanding food labels, we can all do our part to minimize food waste!

Quick Facts from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA)

Best Before Date
•You can buy and eat foods after the “best before” date
•Must appear on pre-packaged foods that will keep fresh for 90 days or less
•Foods that have a shelf life greater than 90 days are not required to have a “best before” date
•Does not guarantee product safety, but gives information on the freshness and potential shelf-life of the unopened food

Expiry Date
•Found on dietary supplements and infant formula
•After the expiry date, the food may not have the same nutrient content indicated on the label and should be discarded

•Year, Month, Day
•Months: JA, FE, MR, AL, MA, JN, JL, AU, SE, OC, NO, DE

To learn more see this CBC article:

UBC Land and Food Systems Project for Quest

This is the first post in a series detailing a Community Food System project by six UBC students helping Quest this semester.

Hi! My name is Fion, I am currently in my third year studying Nutritional Science in the faculty of Land and Food Systems at UBC. In my faculty, Land and Food Systems (LFS), we explore topics such as sustainability, food security, and issues relating to the food system both in our community and globally.

In our LFS 350 class, Land, Food, and Community, all of the students are involved in a different Community Food System Project for the term. My group members and I have been fortunate enough to be able to help Quest Food Exchange. This is the first year Quest is participating as a UBC LFS community partner.

We will be trying to help Quest find farms in the Lower Mainland that have an excess of fresh produce that are not marketable and can be donated for use in their programs. Of course, many of you may know that Quest is a not-for-profit organization, so it relies on food donations to run the grocery markets. Currently, Quest receives produce from Fresh Direct, but could always redistribute more. This is why we hope to find donations to increase the variety and quantity available through Quest’s programs. With that said, we are also achieving a more sustainable practice because we can reduce the amount of food loss on the farms themselves. As of right now, we are still in the middle of trying to find farms to donate produce. Hopefully we will soon find further food vendor partners for Quest and clients will have even more options in terms of types of vegetables and fruits that they can obtain in the grocery markets.

Another little project that my group members and I are working on is putting up Canada’s Food Guide displays around the grocery market at 2020 Dundas. The purpose of this is to increase the knowledge and understanding of the daily intake of the various food groups. By promoting this idea, we can begin to influence eating habits and help people maintain a healthy diet. This can also be a great shopping experience for people wanting to learn more about the foods that they are consuming.

Stay tuned to see what the students come up with!

UBC Students Donate to Quest

A few weeks ago, I was asked by Dennis, a lecturer at UBC, to explain to his class a bit about what Quest does. I was honoured to be invited into their classroom. All of his students are part of the Global Academic Internship Program (GAIP) at UBC and are fairly new to Canada. This meant that they were also unfamiliar with some of the social issues that face Canadians. My challenge was to get across the importance of food security and poverty reduction initiatives, specifically in Vancouver.

I couldn’t have asked for a more attentive and engaged group of students. It was nice to see a group of people so inquisitive about the culture and issues of their new country. We even brainstormed ideas in which the students could help fundraise for Quest. We threw around ideas of food drives and monetary donation matching. I was just glad to have piqued their interest on social issues in Canada and perhaps make them think twice about food waste.

This week, I was invited back to the GAIP classroom. The 16 students (pictured above) had raised $125 out of their own pockets, which was then matched by Dennis and Jennifer, Senior Program Leader at UBC, for a grand total of $250! I was so happy to receive the donation on behalf of Quest and so proud of them for taking the time to do this. Their donation will likely go toward paying for our new wheelchair ramp (pictured at right) at the Dundas location. This will facilitate access to our grocery market for our clients who have trouble with their mobility.

Thank you so much to Dennis and the students for their kind donation and for inviting me in to speak!