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January 28, 2022

Do you eat foods that are past their expiration dates?

Len Penzo thinks many people are wasting their hard-earned money tossing out perfectly good food because they take expiration dates at face value.

He admits that he trawls the aisles for discounts on items about to expire, and relies on his senses to judge when something seems to be a bit off.

When in doubt, he consults StillTasty, a site dedicated to helping consumers decide whether to keep it or toss it. Simply search for the food or beverage in question, indicate how long you’ve had it and whether it has been opened, and you’ll find out if you can safely chow down.

The only products that should always be eaten before the date on a label are the ones with an expires on warning, Penzo maintains. Otherwise, it becomes a judgment call, he believes. 

Thing is, Mr. Penzo lives in the United States, whereas you probably do most of your eating on this side of the border.

In that case, you're better of checking out what the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has to say about the difference between expiry and best before dates.

The only foods that the Canadian government insists must have expiration dates are infant formula, meal replacements and nutritional supplements, largely because the vitamins in these foods can deteriorate, rendering them pretty much useless.

In Canada, best before dates are required on foods that will keep fresh for 90 days or less.

In many instances though, a best before date says little about the safety of a food after that date -- just that it may not provide the taste experience you expect. Foods may have lost some of their flavour and their texture may have changed, for instance.

Where do you draw the line when it comes to best before dates? Do buy discounted goods that are close to the edge? 

By Gordon Powers, MSN Money



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...