Why are we wasting so much food in Canada?

Do you know the difference between a best-before date and an expiry date?

1/22/20242 min read

Canada produces over 50 million tons of food waste annually. It is estimated that over 60% of this is avoidable. Around $21 billion dollars of this food waste is lost in manufacturing processes and around $10 billion at the consumer level. These staggering amounts could, in reality, feed every Canadian citizen for five months.

One of the biggest reasons for this food waste is confusion over food labels. It has been suggested that eliminating best before-dates could prevent safe, consumable foods from being sent to landfills. An article by the National Post published in August 2022 reports that most Canadians are against removing best-before dates because they are accustomed to them and rely on them when deciding whether or not to eat something. In most cases, those who are against scrapping best-before dates are uneducated about the difference between a "best before date" and an "expiry date".

Best-before dates tell us about a products peak freshness, and consuming the product, in most cases, does not pose any risk. These dates are there to inform us that the unopened product is expected to retain its quality.

An expiry date lets us know the last day a product is safe to consume.

So many people in our country are unaware of these differences, which, in turn, is contributing to this large amount of food waste we see each year. For our most vulnerable Canadians, who experience food insecurity on a daily basis, it's a slap in the face. In an article posted by CTV news in July 2023 with Lori Nikkel, the CEO from Second Harvest, Canada's largest food rescue charitable organization, she says that "best before dates are wildley misunderstood. While Canadians struggle to put food on the table, they are also convinced that best-before dates are about safety and will throw away perfectly good food to protect themselves and their families."

Instead of throwing out a food item because it's past the best-before date and you don't want to feed it to your family, please consider donating it. The Lunchbox focuses on rescuing food and providing it to the families that we help. We'd rather see it served in a kids lunch than have it rotting in a landfill.

As food insecurity in our country rises, we have to ask ourselves, why are we wasting so much food?