Friday, May 1, 2009

TwinSpeak: How far can you stretch a use by date?

To eat or not to eat. That is the question. Well, that was the question I pondered today when I considered drinking 2 day old milk because I couldn't be bothered going to the store to get some more. So how far are you prepared to stretch a use by date?

Bella: The milk didn't smell too bad...hardly even sour at all. It was almost half full as well...I didn't want to waste it in these tough economic times? But don't worry, I'm glad to say that I shortly snapped out of my morning sleepy haze and realised that no...I really didn't want a bout of sickness or nausea this morning.

But the question still far are some people prepared to push use by dates? I think it really depends on the manufacturers label and whether it is a 'Use by Date' or a 'Best Before' date. To my understanding the latter meaning; this item is at it's best quality if consumed before the 'Best Before' date. and the former meaning; this item must be consumed before the 'Use By Date' if you want to avoid food poisoning.

I have to admit that I am probably a bit more relaxed than I should be when it comes to acknowledging use by/best before dates. I grew up with a Father who didn't tolerate kids not eating what was given to them and not eating something because of a bit of mould is just plain 'fussy' and 'overcautious'. We toughed it out. I do have my limits though.

- When it comes to Best Before dates, I'll pretty much eat it as long as it's no more than I'd say 6 months overdue. It's just going to be stale or not at it's optimum freshness. Best Before items are usually non perishable and dry goods that can be stored in a pantry.

Use By Dates and what I won't do:
- One thing I am super fussy about is meat. I won't eat it if it has any kind of off smell or has been out too long.
- If it's slimy. Some things you just can't wash off.
- If the entire thing is sprouting mould and looks like a science project. Beyond salvageable.

Use by Dates and things I will do:
- Cheese. If it's a large block and one end has a little mould. I have been known to cut off one end and use the other.
- Crumpets/Bread. Crumpets seem to go mouldy really fast. Depending on mould coverage and if it's only really light, I have also been known to pick off the few little bits of mould and gouge a hole in it to get the surrounding area.
- Bottled sauces- If I have a pesto sauce or really nice curry paste that may have gone a little bad just on the top. I'll scoop out a large dollop of the top layer and use the rest.

I know I'm definitely not going to get top marks in food hygiene but I hate wastage and I've always believed a few germs aren't going to hurt anyone. Within reason. I always think that I'm sure there are people in other parts of the world who have eaten worse so if I can save it...I will :)

Frankie: I am pretty flexible when it comes to use by dates. They're really only there as a recommended guide after all :)

Of course, meat, I am careful with. I don't want to be rolling around the bathroom floor due to the pain from extreme food poisoning. But dry foods...I tend to stretch out quite a bit.

Especially during these tough times I feel that you just need to toughen up!! I have stretched out the life span of my bread, cheese, veges and the like just to save some money. If the veges are a little brown and flexible, oh well, extra flavour, if the bread seems to be dry and stale, I just toast it and who knows the difference, moldy, dry cheese, just cut the bad bits off. You see!!! There really isn't anything wrong with extending the shelf life of your groceries and produce.

As a matter of fact, I think people have become too precious. This guy I work with, he won't eat an avocado unless it is fluorescent green. If it's a day old and has that slight, brown colouring from the air...nope, won't eat it.

Back in the olden days, did people throw out food because it was a little brown??? I don't think so.

And to tell you the truth, I think that these so called 'use by dates' are a marketing ploy, in order to get people worried and throw out their food sooner in order to purchase more. It's a tactic to increase the sales and prey on our vulnerability. Have you noticed how the life span of our foods are getting shorter?? I looked at the UBD for one item the other day and it expired in 4 days??? Yes, it's time to abolish the deceiving UBD and use our own judgement of what's good and what's bad :)


carmar76 said...

LOL It's funny that you should post this today because I just dumped out a bit of milk. I will drink it after the sell by date, but only about 5 days. Then smell or not, I just can't do it. Actually, that's my general rule for any food/drink - 5 days after the sell by date. If it's a "use by" date, however, I stick to those. I have enough problems w/o adding food poisoning!! *laugh*

Shawn Michel de Montaigne said...

'Best by' dates are in fact marketing ploys. Expiration dates are as well. Many studies have verified this. I'd be far more concerned with the meds one takes, since the FDA is so thoroughly in the pocket of Big Pharma.