CHEZ MAKOLET: FOOD SAFETY
The Chez Makolet Team at MADA Community Center ensures the quality and safety of the items we distribute. This page is here to provide you with information regarding food labels and safety in order to understand the food you are receiving and how it is all safe for consumption.
In saying that, there can be elements that change from the review stage to the packing stage to the at home stage. So, if you are unsure of anything you receive once opening your boxes at home, please dispose of it. It is extremely rare for this to occur. The safety of our clients is our number one priority and we do our best to provide the best possible quality food at no cost to our clients, to ease the financial burden of food security in the home.
There continues to be confusion concerning date labels on food and what the terms mean to food banks. Many people incorrectly assume that food has “expired” if it has reached its ‘best before’ or ‘expiry’ date, so they’ll throw it out. Many are surprised to learn that these dates are simply a guideline and not a rule set in stone. Let’s get into more detail concerning different food labelling terms.
What is a ‘Use By’ date?
The ‘Use By’ date signifies when a food must be consumed by for health and safety reasons. It is used on highly perishable foods, such as ready-made meals and items that are classified as high risk upon expiration. MADA does not distribute food at risk of exceeding its ‘Use By’ prior to being consumed.
What is an ‘expiry date’?
The ‘expiry’ date is the date after which the nutritional value of an unopened product may decline to below what is on the label. It does not reflect the safety of consuming the products. It is required only for certain products, including baby formula and meal replacements since they have specific nutritional requirements. These items must be thrown out past the given date as they should not be consumed.
What is a ‘Best Before’ date?
The ‘Best Before’ date is used to indicate quality. It is simply the promise that, when stored properly, an unopened product will keep its highest quality until the stated date. It is perfectly safe to eat food past its ‘Best Before’ date but some of its flavour or texture may begin to decrease. For example, dry pasta may break more easily or salsa may become slightly less flavourful. However, they are still fully safe to consume and retain their whole nutritional value.
Does MADA distribute food past its ‘Best Before’ date?
Most of the Chez Makolet items given out to clients have not reached their ‘Best Before’ date yet. Our team works very hard to find partners who donate food items that are not past their ‘Best Before’ dates yet. However, some of the food that we distribute may be very close or past its ‘Best Before’ date. In those cases, we work with our gift-in-kind partners to ensure the product is still safe to consume and the quality will not be unduly affected. The items also comply with all our other requirements ensuring they are safe to consume.
Many foods that have best before dates can still be shared past the date if they have been stored properly. Unopened shelf stable foods that are stored properly are safe to eat well past their best before date. A few foods can even be shared a year or more past the best before date. A few examples are rice, dry pasta and honey.
What can be done to extend the shelf-life of foods?
- For foods stored at ambient temperature, keep the food storage area cool, dry and dark.
- For foods stored at refrigerator temperature, keep the refrigerator cold (0 – 4°C / 32 – 40°F). Keeping the temperature at the low end of this range will reduce the spoilage rate and extend the shelf-life
- For frozen foods, maintain the freezer at a temperature that will keep foods solidly frozen (-18°C / 0°F) Frozen foods must not be allowed to thaw before sharing whether or not they have Best before dates.
- Some shelf-stable or refrigerated foods can be frozen to extend their shelf-lives. The Best before dates on these would no longer apply. Food can still spoil in the freezer if left too long.
Food banks that effectively manage best before dates and food storage conditions help reduce food waste and provide safe, wholesome products to clients. Discarding foods that reach their best before dates can increase food waste as products with a long shelf-life may be discarded even when the quality is acceptable. Understanding food labeling helps to reduce a lot of waste and create a hunger-free community.