Tags: Health Topics

Don't Worry if Your Cheese is Older Than You

Friday, 24 April 2015 05:19 PM Current | Bio | Archive

The United States Department of Agriculture is telling Americans to ignore deadlines I always thought the feds required. The USDA contends 36 pounds of food per person is wasted each month because easily frightened consumers are tossing groceries based on pessimistic expiration dates.

This is an argument my wife and I have on an almost monthly basis.
She’s forever pouring perfectly good milk down the drain because it’s past the “sell by” date. I tell her it sold before the deadline and it’s good for a couple more weeks. My motto is: You Can Tell By the Smell.

Eggs are easy, too. If the shell isn’t cracked and nothing is moving inside, then fry away.
She’s a slave to a dating system not required by Uncle Sam (only infant formula dates are federally regulated) and is designed to keep inventory turning over and sales continuing for food manufacturers.
It’s a double–whammy: Stores have to throw out perfectly good unsold product and consumers are tossing perfectly good unused product and then buying more to replace what’s gone.

I’m currently drinking a half gallon of “light” Ruby Red Grapefruit juice that’s almost two years past the redline date. Every time I take it from the refrigerator my wife and son make gagging noises and leave the room.

But the joke’s on them. All that’s need is to give the bottle a vigorous shake — vitamin C has a tendency to form clumps and you want uniform distribution of Red Dye #4 — add tap water with Rum and bacteria doesn’t stand a chance.

Manufacturers also use these dates to dodge responsibility for production errors. I once broke a tooth on a Clif Bar that was just about to celebrate its third birthday. The complaint line flunky felt my procrastination was the problem and not a rock in their bar.

He wanted to know if I still had the problem bite, I replied that if he would wait 24 hours I could send it for examination, but he lost interest.

Personally, I knew we were looking at a problem when companies started putting expiration dates on water.

The Harvard Food Law and Policy Center did a report on date waste that was the usual combination of dire warnings and nanny state solutions. The center estimates an average family of four wastes up to $2,275 annually on food that’s tossed too soon, while sellers have to junk another $900 million worth of products that didn’t beat the deadline.

Add it all up and, “In total, about 40 percent of food is never eaten in the
United States.” This is hard to believe when you consider all the fat people Michelle Obama is hectoring to an early grave. I suppose if all that food was eaten, no one would have the strength to get up from the dinner table.
There are five categories of product dating. “Sell by” invented by producers to get stores to buy more. “Best by” is when the manufacturer believes the product to be at peak quality. “Use by” is the last time you can use the product at peak quality. “Freeze by” is self–explanatory, but leaves one wishing for a “thaw by” date.

Finally, the “production” or “pack” date is when the product was placed in its final packaging, an index originally developed by mortuaries.

The USDA contends it has the solution to food waste with a free app consumers can download. Of course it’s only free in the sense the hundreds of thousands of tax dollars spent to develop the app and publicize it are “free.” Otherwise it’s just another taxpayer giveaway.

The app has one of those run–on names with annoying internal capitalization, FoodKeeper, and it’s available for Apple and Android products.

I suppose if getting permission from the government to eat makes you feel better the app is a good one, but using it is complicated. It requires a great deal of data input and specificity before it’s willing to make a prediction.

When and where was the egg laid? Where were the kale pickers from? Has this fish ever swum off Fukushima? (Irradiation alone will add months to shelf life.)

Was the cow milked in the morning or the evening? Did the farmer have cold hands?
Even then you’re still stuck with a range of dates. The final disappointment is the beverage section doesn’t include beer. When I was working in Trinidad there was a craft beer called Howler. The firm went bankrupt and I bought the last six–pack in the nation and brought it home.
I drank one a year to relive old times until I learned that beer has an unforgiving “best by” date the hard way.

Michael R. Shannon is a commentator, researcher (for the League of American Voters), and an award-winning political and advertising consultant with nationwide and international experience. He is author of "Conservative Christian’s Guidebook for Living in Secular Times (Now with added humor!)." Read more of Michael Shannon's reports —
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The USDA contends 36 pounds of food per person is wasted each month because easily frightened consumers are tossing groceries based on pessimistic expiration dates.
Health Topics
Friday, 24 April 2015 05:19 PM
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