The lines between a best before date and an expiry date can often feel a bit blurry. Knowing the difference between the two can help people navigate the food in the grocery store, as well as prevent unnecessary food waste. 

On Canandian food products, there are often a couple letters followed by a date, specifically on food products.

  • Foods with an expiration date will have the letters EXP along with the last safe date of consumption.

  •  Items with the letters BB/MA are products with best before dates, which are products that do not need to be disposed of so quickly.

So, let’s take a deeper dive into the difference between the two. 

Expiration Dates

In Canada only a small amount of food products have an official expiration date. These items are within the following categories:  

  • Formula for infants 
  • Nutritional supplements that aide in providing essential nutrients 
  • Meal replacements 
  • Food prescribed by a physician or pharmacist for extremely low energy diets 
  • Formulated liquid diets for those utilizing feeding tubes 

 Items such as vitamins, over the counter medications, and baby food also have an expiry date to ensure both the potency and safety of the product. These foods, as well as the mentioned above, should not be ingested after the expiration date. 

Best Before Dates

Best Before Dates (BBD) are often where public consumers get confused. When we see a date, we are conditioned to feel that it is no longer safe to consume that product, but the best before date is not used as an indicator of safety. The best before date is the date in which the food product will have the best quality, taste, and nutritional value. 


Knowing that a best before date is more of a quality guideline can allow you to stretch your pantry a little further. For more information on both pantry and refrigeration guidelines for common foods: