Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Sell by dates etc

A reader asked:
I would like to know the difference between "Best Before", "Sell By" and "Expiry Date"
This is what the Labelling of Prepackaged Foods Regulations say.
"best before date"
“the date which signifies the end of the period under any stated storage conditions during which the product will remain fully marketable and will retain any specific qualities for which tacit or express claims have been made"
“expiry date” or “use by date"
“the date which signifies the end of the estimated period under any stated storage conditions, after which the product is unlikely to have quality attributes normally expected by the consumers, and after which date, the food should not be regarded as marketable"
"sell-by date"
“the last date of offer for sale to the consumer after which there remains a reasonable storage period in the home"
My suggestions.

When you're in a store, don't buy anything that is at or beyond its "sell by date". If you do see such an item it’s your right (and I believe your duty) to tell the store manager immediately to help protect other consumers.

I wouldn't even buy something that's expiring within a couple of days, particularly if it's a high-risk item because I don’t know how long it’s going to stay in my fridge. Think carefully about how long you’re likely to store something before you eat it.
Staphylococcus aureus. Image c/o Wikipedia

Be pragmatic about "use by", "expiry" and "best before" dates. It depends very much on what the food is. If it's meat, fish or poultry then be very careful about the dates. On the other hand if it's an apple then you can be less fussy.

Either way use your eyes and your nose with ALL foodstuffs. Millions of years of evolution have given us senses that can often tell us when things we want to put inside our bodies are likely to harm us. Ask your partner, relative, housemate or whoever is standing close enough, "Does that smell OK to you?" On several occasions I’ve opened a pack of meat that is within the sell-by date and it still smelled putrid and had to be returned.

So read the dates and take care with them but above all trust your senses. If in doubt don’t eat it.

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