Best before and expiry rates have caused confusion for years.
Why does it bother Filipinos?
Around 10 million OFWs send balikbayan boxes home, especially during the Christmas season. Inside are heartfelt gifts consisting of imported chocolates, cereals, Pringles, Vienna sausages, Jif peanut butter, pasta, food supplements and jelly vitamins.
Filling up a box takes at least four to six months while shipping can lasts two weeks to a month.
The food which was bought in June will reach the Philippines in December. Most of them nearing (if not already passed) the best before and expiry dates.
Being Filipinos, we don’t like wasting food. We will salvage as much as we can, yet at the back of our minds, we are still conscious of its safety. Rather, we are misled with what we think about expiration dates and best before dates.
It is time to know the difference. Save the money of your loved ones abroad and protect yourself from food poisoning.
Can we still eat food beyond the expiry date and best before date?
The expiry date is the last day the food maintains microbiological and physical stability. This means the food product is spoilt from the date printed as “Expiry Date”.
You must not consume it anymore because it can cause food poisoning.
It does not “smell sour,” you say? But it will be too late once you get severe diarrhea and incur hospital bills due to dehydration and electrolytes imbalance.
Basically, there are five types of products with expiry dates:
- food replacements,
- nutritional supplements,
- baby formula and other human milk substitutes,
- pharmacist-sold foods for very low-energy diets, and
- formulated liquid diets.
Best Before Date
On the other hand, best before date indicates quality. It means that the food will lose its perfect condition beyond the date. Either it loses the aroma, texture, freshness, taste or nutritional value.
You may still consume it few days after, though your satisfaction is not guaranteed anymore.
Best before dates are usually found on food which is expected to stay fresh for 90 days. And though manufacturers are not required to put it in every product, they still print it to indicate the product’s shelf life.
Best before date only applies to unopened products which are stored in recommended conditions. The packaging must not be dented, bulging, leaking or pinched.
Take for example the pasta noodles in your balikbayan box. If they are kept dry and the packaging is intact, you can still cook it. However, the longer you keep it even after the “Best Before Date” it will just get drier. Then once you cook it, it will fall apart and the taste is far from the best quality.
Also, take note that there might be a pinhole which could expose the product. It is invisible to the naked eye, but it is enough to spoil the food. Before consuming, smell it and have a little taste.
Naturally, the golden rule is: “when in doubt, discard.”
Filipinos usually feel bad when throwing food because we have the mentality of sayang. Especially if it is from a loved one abroad.
Knowing the difference of expiry date and best before date, you can save money in three ways:
- Avoid eating expired food and getting hospitalized with astounding bills.
- Keep products beyond its “Best Before Date” but keep in mind that you have to consume it soon.
- Tell your loved ones to check the food labels and consider the date it will reach the Philippines before purchasing.