Challenge activity — Week 4

Learning how to prolong food freshness and useful food safety practices!

Introduction

How many of us have stood in a grocery aisle, searching a container for its best-before date, without really understanding what that date means?  Does a food product magically change on its best-before date? Is it safe to eat? Will its nutrition content be affected? When we buy foods closer to the earth…

According to Second Harvest, there is a lot of confusion about best-before and expiry dates, which is a significant cause of food waste in Canada.

Challenge Ambassador

Michelle Delaney

Thorncliffe Park Urban Farmers

Michelle Delaney

3 COMMON MYTHS about BEST BEFORE dates.

MYTH #1

“Best-before dates and expiry dates are the same thing”

BUSTED: This is the biggest – and most persistent – myth!

In Canada, there is a legal distinction between “best-before” and “expiry.” Only five types of food in Canada have true expiry dates: baby formula; meal replacement or supplement bars; meal supplement drinks, like Boost or Ensure; and formulated liquid diets and foods for use in a very low-energy diet – both of which require a prescription. 

Best-before dates are about quality, not safety. The “best-before” date does not guarantee product safety, but it does give you information about the freshness and potential shelf-life of the unopened food you are buying.

MYTH #2

“I can’t eat eggs or drink milk after the date on the carton”

BUSTED: Eggs and milk are safe to consume up to 2 weeks after their best-before date.

You can even freeze milk and get up to 3 extra months of use past its best-before date. According to Health Canada’s food safety page you can eat and even buy after the “best before” date has passed, though it may have lost some of its freshness, flavour and nutritional value, and its texture may have changed.

MYTH #3

“When in doubt, throw it out!”

BUSTED: This is tricky since this guidance has some usefulness. But should the garbage be your default for yogurt with yesterday’s best-before date? Not so much.

You can trust your senses: don’t eat foods that smell bad; if you see rotting or mold on produce, put it in the compost; if a can is bulging or leaking, discard it.

Source: Second Harvest – secondharvest.ca. Shared with permission.

The Challenge

Rationale

Better knowledge, leads to better choices. Taking the time to dive deeper into the top sources of food waste, will lead to greater behaviour change for sustainability.

Objectives

  • Critically assess the best-before dates on food products
  • Develop the skill to assess food safety 
  • Use strategies to extend the storage life of foods near their “best-before” date

Tips

Trust your nose & instincts! 

Practice your new habits – even if part of an item had gone bad, try to eat up what is still remains edible 

Instructions

  • This week learn more about best-before dates to ensure good food isn’t being tossed into the green bin. 
  • Take the short, free e-course “A Guide to Food Date Labels in Canada”, offered by Second Harvest (see below), which  will help you understand when food is safe, or not safe to eat; and, know the difference between the various date labels. 
  • Read the two guides below, Fridge Guide: How to Keep Food Fresh Longer and Consumption Guide: How Long will it Keep — and download them for reference.

Find these resources below.

What’s the difference?

BEST BEFORE vs. EXPIRY DATE

A Best Before Date (BB) indicates the estimated amount of time that a properly stored and unopened package will retain its freshness, taste, or nutritional value.

The Expiry Date is required on certain foods that have strict nutrition specifications. There are only 5 types of food that have Expiry Dates in Canada: formulated liquid diets; pharmacist-sold food for low-energy diets; meal replacements; nutritional supplements; human milk substitutes (infant formula)

Source: Second Harvest.

Challenge Ambassadors

Michelle Delaney

This week, our ambassador is Michelle Delaney from Thorncliffe Park Urban Farmers. Thorncliffe Park is a neighbourhood in the north of East York and is a densely populated, multicultural, high-rise community.

In 2012 she co-founded a resident-lead group named Thorncliffe Park Urban Farmers, when she met a fellow mom in the community who shared her desire to expand on our green lifestyles and grow organic food. “TPUF” as it is affectionately called, manages two ¼ acre communal gardens, and this past year, also planted 37 various fruit trees throughout the properties of 8 buildings.

Check out Thorncliffe Park Urban Farmers on Facebook and Instagram.

YouTube video

In conversation

Michelle is interviewed by Erin Andrews, Founder & Executive Director of Impact Zero (@impactzero.ca). You can also watch the video on Youtube and Instagram.

Resources

Second Harvest e-Course

A Guide to Food Date Labels in Canada

This short course by Second Harvest features a series of informative videos discussing how date labelling is contributing to the food waste crisis in Canada. Learn to decode dates found on food packaging and useful strategies for discerning how long food is really safe to eat.

Downloads

Fridge Guide: How to Keep Food Fresh Longer

Download PDF

Created by Love Food Hate Waste. Shared with permission.

Consumption Guide: How Long will it Keep

Download PDF

Created by Second Harvest. Shared with permission.

Need more inspiration?

YouTube video
How to Make Produce Last Longer

Simple changes in how you store produce can make it last a lot longer!

Video by Sweet Simple Vegan.

Reflection questions

After learning more about Best Before dates & how to better store your food items, share your thoughts in the Community Feed below.

  1. What were your top take-aways from the Second Harvest resource on best-before dates?
  1. How will your new knowledge of food labelling affect your buying habits?
  1. Were you surprised or concerned by what you learned? 

Kids and families

Take 5 for the EARTH is an online resource designed by ecoCaledon to help inform, inspire and motivate families to take action on climate change.

Community Feed

A space for participants to share experiences, photos & questions about the Food Waste Challenge!

How to use the feed

The feed is public, but only participants can contribute.

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