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to agree with scrapping "best before" dates?

(38 Posts)
TinfoilHattie Sun 30-Apr-17 11:33:07

www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-39747327

Man on news this morning saying that Best Before dates on food should be scrapped because they are meaningless, and lead people to throw away perfectly good food which is safe to eat but might be less than optimum condition. Also huge confusion between "use by" dates on short shelf-life products like dairy and meat which should be adhered to, and "best before" which is a quality indicator.

I am very relaxed about best before - quite happy to eat things weeks or months "out of date", especially tins or packets. A tin of tomatoes which has a shelf life of 2 years isn't going to kill you if you eat it a fortnight into May when the best before date is the end of April.

So yes, scrap them. And stop everyone being so silly about food waste.

Crunchyside Sun 30-Apr-17 11:40:46

I sort of agree in theory but I feel like it still needs some sort of date on it, otherwise you really have no reference for stuff that's been at the back of the cupboard for ages... i.e. a jar of curry sauce that has a 2 year shelf life will probably be fine 6 months after the best before date, but not 5 years later? Similarly, some dry goods might be a bit stale after a few years. I suppose you could argue that people should just use their senses to tell whether something is good any more but I'm just not sure if I like the idea of not having any sort of reference to how old the product is.

We keep chickens and when I box up their eggs for ourselves, friends and family, I write on the box the date they were laid. That way it's not telling you a prescriptive date that they will suddenly go bad, but at least you know how old they are! I am not sure if this would work for other types of products though.

Sadly some people just have no clue how food stays good or goes bad. I know someone who will throw out an unopened pack of cheddar cheese when it passes the date. I suppose she doesn't know how cheese is actually made...!

senua Sun 30-Apr-17 11:45:43

And stop everyone being so silly about food waste.

Nooooooo. I save a fortune by buying yellow-sticker stuff because of these ridiculous rules. Keep them!grin

MaisyPops Sun 30-Apr-17 11:46:39

I agree with keeping use by on dairy and meat.

Really there just needs to be more education about food use. E.g. if it looks off, smells off, tastes off then it's off.

I eat loads of stuff outside the best before. But I have friends who'll throw hard kiwi fruits out because they're after the date

BeyondStrongAndStable Sun 30-Apr-17 11:47:05

I wonder if rather than "best before 1/1/17" it might be better to explicitly say "quality may reduce after 1/1/17"?

TinfoilHattie Sun 30-Apr-17 11:48:09

Most yellow sticker stuff I see is meat/fish or things made with dairy. Or pre-cooked short shelf life items like ready meals, pizzas, pies. Those would all have their "use by" dates still.

I love my yellow stickers too ;-)

BarbaraofSeville Sun 30-Apr-17 12:23:56

Use by dates are worse for encouraging food waste because a lot of people will not eat them the day after the use by date even if the item is perfectly fine. I regularly go a day or two past a use by date and have never found anything to be off or make me ill. Cheese can be fine for months after the use by date. Dates on fruit and vegetables are totally ridiculous but I agree with senua that you can save a fortune by buying yellow sticker stuff - potatoes will keep for weeks/months after if stored correctly and Brie style cheeses usually aren't even ripe when you get to the use by date.

The Junk Food Project takes food past the use by dates to use in it's cafes and they 'intercept food that is past its expiration date and use our own judgement on whether we believe the food is fit for human consumption or not, by smelling it, tasting it and visually inspecting it. We do not turn food away simply because it has ‘expired’, but we will never serve food that we believe is unfit for human consumption'.

user1471545174 Sun 30-Apr-17 12:28:30

Good for you, OP. I don't want to return to the barfathon that was my life before sell-by and best before dates!

Not everyone has a stomach of iron.

IAmTheWorwax Sun 30-Apr-17 12:33:24

I like them, they are useful to make sure you are buying the freshest produce. I'd rather buy something that has a longer shelf life than something that is bbe tomorrow

Wolfiefan Sun 30-Apr-17 12:35:39

I like them too. I use them when buying bread to try and gauge which loaf or brand would last longer.
I don't bin food after best by date though. It's just a guide as to when food is at its best.
I do however follow use by dates completely slavishly.

PhyllisNights Sun 30-Apr-17 12:39:22

Get rid of best before? Absolutely not. The health risks, the quality of food.

It's all very well a healthy person of average age eating something a bit out of date, but it can be a particular danger to children, pregnant women & the elderly.

SaveMeBarry Sun 30-Apr-17 12:40:52

While I'm actually very free and easy with best before and use by dates I think we have to accept the reality that over the years (generations?) people have lost/never developed the ability to use or trust their own judgement in that regard.

If people can't currently judge by sight or smell and are totally dependent on the date, it's possible many would err on the side of caution still and bin things "just in case". I can imagine quite a few people I know:

"Ooh, when did we buy those carrots/tomatoes/grapes, was it last week or the week before"?
"Hmm, dunno, maybe best not to chance it..."

user1493453415 Sun 30-Apr-17 12:41:33

I think that it's important to realise they are a guide and not an absolute value.

I also think it's really important to be self-reflective on your own families food waste regularly.

BarbaraofSeville Sun 30-Apr-17 12:44:27

But tomatoes, carrots and grapes are easily to tell if good or not. They go mushy when they start to go off, it's not even like there are hidden bacteria to worry about like meat and fish.

Carrots especially could have been stored for months after being picked and before they get to the supermarket. The date on the bag is completely arbitary and meaningless.

larrygengurch Sun 30-Apr-17 12:46:39

Best before is a quality indicator only, after that date the quality would decline. It would take a long time after best before for there to be a food safety risk, other foods with best before dates would be fine as long as stored in optimum conditions, just not as nice.

TinfoilHattie Sun 30-Apr-17 12:47:46

What sort of health risks are there from eating a can of beans a few weeks past its best before date? Or an apple? Or some spuds? Or packaged items like chocolate or crisps? It's not about having a cast iron stomach, it's understanding food hygiene and what carries a "risk" and what doesn't.

I still think people are confusing USE BY dates on things like meat which you really shouldn't be eating when they're weeks out of date. Or yogurt, prawns etc.

DoItTooJulia Sun 30-Apr-17 12:50:37

I think it'd be better to have things like 'baked on' dates for bread a bit like the egg example above-people can use their own judgement then, although who doesn't give their bread a squeeze to see if it's fresh irrespective of the date before you make your sarnie??

Use by dates aren't going to be scrapped-too dangerous, but having bbe dates and use by dates confuses so many people.

And as for dates on whole fruits and vegetables-that's bloody madness.

SaveMeBarry Sun 30-Apr-17 12:51:57

Yes Barbara but that's my point. You can tell pretty easily if those items have gone off yet I know people who are so dependent on BB and UB dates that they would never just judge themselves. So they would bin perfectly fine veg and fruit just in case.

I'm not making it up you should hear some of the conversations I have with my sis about veg she's binning and I regularly leave my parents house carrying a box of eggs they won't use because they have today's date on the sticker! grin

bigbluebus Sun 30-Apr-17 12:55:08

I agree that Best Before dates are driving people to throw away good food but there wouls still need to be some sort of date on food otherwise how would I know how long a packet of biscuits bought from the corner shop had been on the shelf. It could have been there for years and I wouldn't know until I got it home and opened it to use only to find the biscuits are stale.

It was interesting seeing the example used by the lady on BBC Breakfast this morning where she gave an example of a red pepper which had been discarded by a Supermarket because it was in a packet which had gone past it's BB date. If that pepper had not been in a packet then it wouldn't have had a date at all so would not have been thrown out presumably. So part of the problem in Supermarkets/producers putting produce in packaging when it does not need to be in there at all. Package it - it needs a date. Leave it loose - it doesn't.

RedSandYellowSand Sun 30-Apr-17 12:59:58

I don't live in the UK. We have "produced on" and "BBE" on most products. I really like this, as then I can judge how far out something is. So, 3 days past a one week window, I'm very cautious. 3 days past a one year window, who cares! I really like it, and its fascinating to see how long items are expected to last. My eggs, for example, have a 3 month life printed on them.

SaveMeBarry Sun 30-Apr-17 13:02:06

Maybe some kind of public education programme is needed? Like those ads they used to have on tv highlighting the need to check smoke alarm batteries or road safety and so on.

Nowadays many people have little idea how food is produced, how long something may have been stored before reaching the supermarket, the effect processing such as canning has and so on. We've just become so removed and there's little thought or knowledge about how the food on our plates got there.

ThouShallNotPass Sun 30-Apr-17 13:08:28

I'd be happy to get rid of BEST BEFORE because it's encouraging waste. My MIL will throw out anything close to it's Best Before date even if it's clearly fine like apples or carrots. People forget that it means exactly what it says. It is best quality before that date, but that doesn't mean that it's not edible after.
I'd prefer "produced on" so we consumers are encouraged to use our common sense.

Use by is a little different because it is needed for some products such as chicken which is almost never usable after then. (I've found that even on the use by date it smells off and needs binned)

ThouShallNotPass Sun 30-Apr-17 13:14:59

@SaveMeBarry I completely agree that a proper educational campaign is needed.
My daft husband won't eat a cooked roast more than one day after I cooked it because he considers it to be off. Yet what's funny is that he spent years working in a meat factory. But apparently that's "totally different" grin
The animal would be slaughtered in one place, butchered in another place, packed and shipped to be cooked in a different town, stored and shipped to another town where hubby would slice and package it to be sent to a wholesalers in another town and delivered to supermarkets and shops to eventually be bought to take home and sit in a fridge for a few days before eating. But a joint of beef after 24 hours in my house from cooking and it's to be binned 😂😂

NotEvenListening Sun 30-Apr-17 13:21:48

My nan has no sense of smell so getting rid of these dates could be lethal to her especially on meat products, but I agree that for your average person most of it is just down to common sense whether something is still edible.

TinfoilHattie Sun 30-Apr-17 14:19:39

But meat products aren't "best before" - they are use by. Nobody is advocating getting rid of use by dates on short shelf life products. Just dates on stuff like fruit/veg, tins, packets which last for months anyway.

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