Date Markings and Storage Instructions
Requirements

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General

The Food and Drugs Regulations (FDR) require prepackaged products with a durable life (definition) of 90 days or less to be labelled with date markings and storage instructions (where applicable) [B.01.007, FDR]. For foods with a durable life greater than 90 days, refer to Voluntary Declaration.

Foods Packaged at a Place Other than the Retail Premises

Prepackaged food with a durable life of 90 days or less and packaged at a place other than the retail premises where it will be sold must be labelled with [B.01.007(1.1)(b), FDR]:

  • a durable life date (known as "best before" date); and
  • storage instructions (if they differ from normal room temperature)

Foods Packaged on the Retail Premises

Prepackaged food with a durable life of 90 days or less and packaged on the retail premises from which it is sold may be labelled with either:

  • the packaging date (known as "packaged on" date); and
  • the durable life of the food on the label or on a poster next to the food [B.01.007 (1.1)(c), FDR]

or

  • a durable life date (known as "best before" date); and
  • storage instructions (if they differ from normal room temperature)

The above flexibility for food packed at retail reflects the intent of the "packaged on" date requirement, which is to give retailers an alternative, but equally effective, method to express the "best before" date on foods the retailer may not have manufactured. It should be noted that consumers sometimes contact the CFIA seeking "packaged on" date information when a durable life date is used at retail. In these situations, consumers will be referred to the retailer to provide this information.

Note: The Food and Drug Regulations specify the manner in which date markings must be declared. Refer to Manner of Declaring for more information.

Durable Life

It is the responsibility of the regulated party to determine if the product has a durable life of 90 days or less and the specific durable life information for the products they sell. The durable life of products or categories is not prescribed in regulation.

Any changes made to the durable life information that result in false or misleading information on the label are prohibited by Section 5.(1) of the Food and Drugs Act.

Note: All foods sold in Canada must be safe for consumption [4.(1), Food and Drugs Act]. A durable life date is not an indicator of food safety, neither before nor after the date. It applies to unopened products only; once opened, the shelf life of a food may change. Products may be found for sale after the "best before" date has passed as the date is based on freshness and quality rather than safety. When this date has passed, the food may lose some of its freshness and flavour, or its texture may have changed. Some of its nutritional value, such as vitamin C content, may also be lost.

Exemptions

The following foods are exempt from the requirement to be labelled with a durable life date or packaging date [B.01.007(3), FDR]:

  • Prepackaged fresh fruits and vegetables (including prepackaged, chopped or shredded fresh fruit and vegetables);
  • Prepackaged individual portions of food served by restaurants, airlines or other commercial enterprises with meals or snacks (e.g., milk, cheese packets - as they are intended for immediate consumption);
  • Prepackaged individual servings of food prepared by a commissaryFootnote 1 and sold in automatic vending machines or mobile canteens (e.g., sandwiches); and
  • Prepackaged donuts.

Voluntary Declaration

Foods with a shelf life greater than 90 days (e.g., cereals, semi-dry cured or dry cured sausage, etc.) are not required to be labelled with a "best before" date and storage instructions or a packaging date and durable life information. If manufacturers and retailers choose to provide customers with this information, they must follow the required manner of declaration [B.01.007(6), FDR].

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