Date Markings
Requirements

General

A prepackaged product having a durable life of 90 days or less durable and packaged at a place other than the retail premises where it will be sold must be marked 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)

*Storage instructions are mandatory on foods that require storage conditions that differ from "normal room temperature". Examples include phrases such as "keep refrigerated" and "store in a cool, dry place". In some cases, certain products covered under other regulations (e.g., Dairy Product Regulations) may have additional storage instruction requirements independent of durable life date requirements. Please refer to the appropriate food-specific labelling requirements of the Industry Labelling Tool for more information.

A prepackaged product having a durable life of 90 days or less and packaged on the retail premises from which it is sold is required to declare [B.01.007 (1.1)(c), FDR]:

  • 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

* durable life can be expressed several ways, for example, the number of days a product will retain its freshness or may be applied as a "best before" date.

The intent of the "packaged on" date requirement is to give retailers an alternative, but equally effective, method to express the "best before" date on foods the retailer may not have manufactured.

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.

Many factors can have an effect on the durable life of a product. It is the responsibility of the manufacturer or retailer to determine if the product has a durable life of 90 days or less and the specific "best before" date 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.

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 commissary* and sold in automatic vending machines or mobile canteens (e.g., sandwiches); and
  • Prepackaged donuts.

*commissary includes any establishment that packs foods for sale to vending machines or mobile canteens.

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 information 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].