Best Before When?

The last two weeks, English writer Jonathan Maitland selflessly sacrificed life and limb, or at least his stomach, to test “best before” dates. What began with eggs one day past their “use-by” date, ended with a bowl of Sultana Bran (Raisin Bran) 12 weeks beyond the manufacturers’ cut-off by finsprings (via Flickr)

The “Best Before Challenge” and the accompanying writeup was equally entertaining and eye-opening. Most daring, I’d say, was eating steak mince seven days past the “use-by” date. Maitland’s wife cooked the meat for 45 minutes, and it was fine. Hence, Microbiologist Lee Humpheson, who runs a food-testing laboratory, wrote:

‘There is a 100 per cent greater risk from food that hasn’t been cooked or prepared properly, even if it is really fresh, than from food which is past its Use-By date, but which has been cooked and prepared properly.’

Maitland eating old meat reminded me that pepper sauce used to serve a purpose–to mask the taste of old meat. It also brought to mind what a chef once told me–ordering a well-done steak in a restaurant gives the kitchen an opportunity to use up its older meat.

The article featured some intriguing expert advice. David Jukes, a senior lecturer in Food Bioscience at Reading University opined:

Inevitably, the food industry plays safe. Use-By dates have a degree of safety built in, in order to protect the industry.

Furthermore, Martin Caraher, a food policy expert at City University in London, added that cautious use-by dates are in the food industry’s best interests:

‘The supermarkets’ main concern is the health of their customers, but strict Use-By dates are also in their financial interests. If customers throw food away, they have to replace it by buying even more.

The whole “Best Before” experiment seems like a TV show waiting to happen. Execs could create an offshoot of “Fear Factor” or make it a reality show by filming life at my house. What would a kitchen reality show look like at your home?

This entry was posted in Food Safety, Household, International. Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.