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Can we please talk about expiration dates? A mini-ish rant…

Bad Fruit

3 minute read.

I promise I’m not disgusting. It’s just that (honest it’s not gross), sometimes (and by sometimes, I mean all the damn time), I eat produce past its best before date. The best before date was the 1st of the month, it’s the 6th of the month…and…I’m still eating that produce.
Because it’s still good.
Even though it’s days ‘out of date’.
It’s. Still. Good.
(OK, fine I’m a little disgusting).

In all seriousness it bugged me that I had to explain to a friend that it was OK to eat a banana which was (according to the packaging) days out of date…even though it was still green. Turns out she just throws her food out as soon as it hits the date on the packet…because it must absolutely be bad, otherwise the packet wouldn’t have a best before date on it, right? Wrong.

Just to be perfectly clear, I’m not telling you to go eat that item in the back of your fridge with the mould growing on it – that…that, and I cannot stress this enough….THAT…should be disposed of immediately. Immediately, like go do it now, then come back and finish reading this (you nasty, nasty person, you). I’m saying learn the damn difference between a best before date, and an expiry date, and maybe we won’t waste so much damn food each year.

It’s like this:

When it comes to dates there are several types:

Expiry and use by dates: These are all about safety. Found for example on meats, fish, poultry and some ready prepared salads. If you eat the products after the date on the packaging you could make yourself really sick – even if it looks and smells fine…buuuuuuut, the use by date is only really valid if you follow the storage instructions. So, if it says, keep refrigerated, you need to keep it refrigerated. If it says once opened, eat within five days…guess what? Once opened, you need to eat it within five days. If it says once opened, eat within five days and you opened it yesterday…and the use by date is tomorrow…you need to ignore the eat within five days part and eat it by the end of tomorrow or you risk food poisoning. No one wants that.

Easy right?

Best before dates: These are about quality, not safety. You tend to see this on produce (fruits and veg), and tinned goods. It means the food may be at its best if it’s eaten before the date on the packaging. It might have a stronger flavour, it might have a different texture, it might look better, but it generally isn’t going to hurt you if you eat it after that date. I mean, think of fruit. Some fruits aren’t even ripe when they’ve reached the best before date on their packets, so…you don’t need to throw them away. Just wait until they are ripened to eat them, this could be a week or more after the best before date. But again, you need to follow storage instructions. Keep it in the fridge, or away from direct sunlight if it says so.

Sell by and display until dates: These aren’t for you the customer so ignore them. Seriously. It’s for the store. They need to sell the product by that date to make room for newer products. Often, you’ll see this alongside use by or best before dates, and those are the dates you need to pay attention to.

This is something that irks me like you wouldn’t believe because it can result in a hell of a lot of unnecessary food waste, so the next time you notice your bananas have reached their best before date but are still green, throw the packaging away and keep the bananas. Or better yet, buy them loose it’s sooooo much cheaper!


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