Food for Thought Blog

Understanding Labels, Critical to Reducing Food Waste

January 18th, 2019Awareness

There has been a lot of talk and news coverage about the excessive amount of food waste in Canada. But with unclear labels and a lack of understanding between expiry and best before dates, it’s not surprising so much food is wasted.

According to a recent report, “The Avoidable Crisis of Food Waste,” more than half of the food produced in Canada is wasted and the average kitchen throws out hundreds of dollars’ worth of edible food each year.

The report estimates the value of usable groceries that ends up in a landfill or other disposal sites is nearly $50 billion. That is more than half of the amount Canadians spend on food annually and enough to feed every Canadian for five months.

The report, which was commissioned by Second Harvest, highlights some other staggering numbers, including:

  • 32% of lost and wasted food is edible and could have been redirected to help people in our communities.
  • Each year, 4 million people in Canada struggle to put food on the table.
  • Canadian households are responsible for 21% of avoidable waste (valued at approximately $1,700 per household each year)

It’s clear we need to change our attitude towards food, make more of an effort to understand labels and the important difference between best before and expiry dates.

Here at The Food Bank, waste reduction is a top priority. We work hard to ensure the food acquired and distributed to the 100 community programs and agencies we work with is healthy, nutritious and safe for consumption. One way we do this is by educating our staff, volunteers and community programs and agency partners about waste reduction strategies, and the difference between best before and expiry dates. Another, is the Fresh Approaches Food Centre, where we have implemented processes to not only reduce waste but extend the lifespan and freshness of food, ensuring that more healthy, nutritious and safe food is available to those in need.

While the difference between best before and expiry dates may not be immediately clear, they are significant and can extend the shelf life of some products in your kitchen. Below are some tips to help you better understand the difference and reduce your food waste.

Best Before Dates

A best before date indicates freshness and how long the food will keep its flavor and nutritional value. These foods may be consumed if the best before date has passed.

Expiry Dates

An expiration date is the last day a product is safe to consume. Food with expiry dates should never been consumed after the expiry date. There are only five types of products that have expiration dates:

  • Baby formula and other human milk substitutes
  • Nutritional supplements
  • Meal replacements
  • Pharmacist-sold foods for very low-energy diets
  • Formulated liquid diets.
Donations We Cannot Accept

A top priority for us is to ensure the food we distribute is healthy, nutritious and safe. While we appreciate all food donations, there are some items we cannot accept, these items include:

  • Unidentifiable food products or ingredients (missing labels)
  • Partially consumed foods (open packaging)
  • Unpasteurized foods
  • Home made goods (preserves, canned items, baking etc.)
  • Meats, dairy and other items not directly from food industry partners.