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“Canadians Increasingly Consume Food Beyond Best-Before Dates: Understanding the Risks”

“Canadian Attitudes Shift Towards ‘Risky Foods’ Amid Grocery Price Fluctuations: Understanding the Health Risks”

Grocery price inflation appears to be tapering off across Canada, but despite this trend, a recent report unveils a notable openness among many Canadians to consume “risky foods,” despite potential health hazards.

The report, slated for release by Dalhousie University’s Agri-Food Analytics Lab and shared in advance with Global News, reveals that 58 percent of respondents admitted to being more inclined to eat food nearing or surpassing its best-before date due to higher prices. Approximately 37 percent reported no change in their consumption habits.

Among those willing to consume such foods, 23.1 percent admitted to consistently doing so, while 38.6 percent acknowledged consuming food past its best-before date or when overripe often, with an additional 30.8 percent doing so occasionally. Only 7.5 percent claimed to rarely indulge in such practices.

Sylvain Charlebois, director of the lab, emphasized the shift in Canadian perspectives toward food management amid inflation, noting that food is increasingly viewed as an asset that shouldn’t be wasted unnecessarily.

Food scientist Keith Warriner from the University of Guelph highlighted the distinction between best-before dates and expiration dates, emphasizing that best-before dates primarily indicate when quality begins to decline rather than food safety.

While some foods like dry and canned goods, chips, cured meats, and acidic dressings can generally be consumed safely beyond their best-before dates, others such as bread, meat, milk, and cheese require caution. Seafood, deli meats, and leftovers beyond five days pose higher risks due to potential bacterial growth.

Warriner advised relying on sensory cues such as odor and appearance to assess food safety, cautioning against consuming items exhibiting signs of spoilage.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) echoed the importance of consumer judgment when determining the safety of food beyond best-before dates, emphasizing that these dates are not indicative of food safety.

Nearly half of the surveyed Canadians (47 percent) have adopted alternative food storage and preparation methods to prolong shelf life, such as freezing bread or utilizing humidity-controlled drawers for produce.

While freezing can mitigate food waste, Charlebois urged caution to prevent compromising health.

Despite the self-reported nature of the survey, it revealed that 20 percent of Canadians claimed to have fallen ill after consuming food nearing or surpassing its best-before date.

As Canadians explore ways to save, Warriner stressed the importance of prudent shopping practices and minimizing spontaneous purchases to limit both food waste and health risks.

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