The long-awaited change to ‘best before’, ‘use by’ and ‘sell by’ labelling has finally arrived. What’s the oldest thing you’ve ever eaten?
Today marks the arrival of government guidelines scrapping the sell-by date in an attempt to cut down on some of the £12bn worth of food that’s wasted each year. Well done and hurrah. From now on, “use by” labels will refer to food that’s unsafe to eat by a given date, while “best before” dates will show the product is no longer at its best.
We’ve debated this subject many times and I can say with confidence and approval that when it comes to deciding whether to eat or bin, Word of Mouthers are broadly of the “sniff it and see” constituency.
While we tend to be cynical about sellers’ motives for putting short shelf lives on the likes of tinned food and pickles, a healthy degree of caution should be exercised with fresh food from a safety point of view. And when it comes to quality, flagrant disregard of “best before” enrages those producers who put so much care into making their food – if you’ve spent hours lovingly hand making fresh chocolates to be enjoyed at their best within a day or two, it must be more than a bit annoying to think of them deteriorating by the day at the back of someone’s refrigerator.
But, as consumers, we make these judgments for ourselves and I must admit, not only does “sell by” barely register with me but I hardly pay attention to the “use by” date either, as I trust my own senses. I’ve binned fresh meat that was within its sell-by date but which had a lingering whiff. Then again, meat that’s just out of the packet can have a smell that disappears when aired for a little while.
I have what might be described as a somewhat edgy approach to the whole subject, pushing far beyond recommended use by dates for most things. I’ll cut the mould from cheese that isn’t meant to have growth on the outside and consider smoked meats to be usable for as long as they languish in my fridge. Figuring it was preserved pretty nicely in its casing, the massive chorizo I brought back from Spain last autumn was used over many months, livening up numerous stews during last year’s long, bleak winter. What’s the oldest thing you’ve ever eaten?
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