According to Leslie Beck, Registered Dietitian, “Best before” dates refer to the quality and shelf life of an unopened food product, not safety. They tell you how long a product will retain its optimum flavour, texture and nutritional value when stored under normal conditions. Once you open a food, the best before date is no longer valid.

If you store foods properly, many fresh foods like eggs, milk and yogurt can be safely eaten soon after their best before dates have expired. That doesn’t mean these foods will taste as fresh, however. They may have lost some of their flavour and their texture may have changed. Think of best before dates as suggestions about how long food will retain its freshness.

Time limits for storage

The following list indicates how long you can store refrigerated foods to retain their highest quality – their freshness, taste and nutrient levels.

  • Milk: 7 days after “best before” date, opened or unopened
  • Yogurt: 7 to 10 days, opened or unopened
  • Cheese, hard: 3 to 4 weeks opened, 6 months unopened
  • Butter: 4 weeks after best before date, opened or unopened