By Lethbridge Herald on May 19, 2017.
Concerns over food many might consider expired which is being handed out to vulnerable populations by Lethbridge Food Banks is partially based on a misunderstanding of what “expiry” and “best before” dates actually mean, says the executive director of the Lethbridge Food Bank.
Maral Kiani Tari, executive director for the Lethbridge Food Bank, said food banks in each region work with their own health region to make sure every aspect of our distribution if food safe, and that food safety is the top priority of our food banks.
The best-before date is not actually a food safety date, according to Kiani Tari, but the manufacturer’s estimate on how long the food will remain at its best quality.
“Technically, you can actually distribute (a can of soup) as long as it is not bulged or rusted,” she said. “But we practise two years after.”
Eugene Wilson is a low-income resident who makes use of food bank services. He said some meat he received from the food bank had a 2016 expiry date and tasted bad. When he looked into his hamper, he said between half and three-quarters of the food was past its best-before date.
Wilson said he has not been eating the food past its best-before date, and it puts additional pressure on his budget. Instead of the food lasting a week or two, he said it only lasts for a few days.
He used to be a client at the Interfaith Food Bank, he says, but the dates on the food concerned him so he began patronizing the Lethbridge Food Bank.
Kiani Tari said volunteers who put the hampers for clients together always check the expiry dates on food before deciding whether to use that food or not.
She said while mistakes do happen, there is a second opportunity for the dates to be checked by the clients themselves before food is taken from the facility.
In the event of expired food making it to the client, she said they can call the food bank and return that food to be exchanged.
In the case of meat frozen before the “best before” date, it essentially becomes stuck at the condition it was in when frozen until it is thawed. So meat three days off a “best before” date would have three days still after thawing.
Kiani Tari said meat that comes into the food bank is already frozen. In many cases, the meat comes directly from a butcher and is frozen-fresh.
“When you freeze meat like that, it’s fine,” she said. “That’s everyone’s practice.”
The food bank follows guidelines listed on the Still Tasty website — an online resource for finding information on how long food is good for in different forms and preserved in different ways.
The site says pasta, for example, remains safe to eat for three years if stored properly.
A can of mushroom soup, on the other hand, can remain safe to eat for three to five years if stored properly — though Kiani Tari said the LFB sets a limit of two years on their soups.
“I have cans in my house that are two years old,” said Kiani Tari. “I eat them.”
Anyone interested in learning more about the shelf life of their food can visit the Still Tasty website at stilltasty.com.
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