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Thread: Do ‘Best By’ Dates Really Matter?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    Alberta, Canada

    Do ‘Best By’ Dates Really Matter?

    Considering how much food is wasted, what do you think about this?

    Would you be open to eating food that has aged past the dubious “sell by/use by” date? Former president of Trader Joe’s, Doug Rauch, certainly hopes so. He is in the works of opening a new restaurant-grocery hybrid in Dorchester, Massachusetts called The Daily Table. They will sell produce and ready-made food at a low cost to the consumer. Here’s the kicker: it will utilize only recently expired foods.

    Utterly repulsed? Well hold up a minute. Most of the time “best if used by” dates are totally arbitrary. Just because a product “expired” yesterday doesn’t mean it is inedible today. These dates are merely suggestions and are, surprisingly, not even regulated. Harvard actually released an eye-opening report recently on food date labels, their vagueness, and the resulting massive effect they wreak on food waste in the US. In the US, 40 percent of all produced food is thrown out, whether it be on the farm, at the grocery store, or at home due to any number of reasons including expired “best by” dates, blemishes, overstocking, or legitimate rot. That is a massive number, one which clearly indicates that our society needs to shift its perspective on food.

    Farmers throw out blemished produce because no one will buy them. But that should not be the case! Most of these throwaways are just as delicious as their unblemished brethren and could feed a lot of hungry people. Remember, cosmetically imperfect produce is just as wholesome and tasty as shiny, picturesque produce. Foods like that should not be wasted on such a large scale.
    Inspired to extend the life of your food? Rauch suggests a very cold refrigerator or freezer to keep produce, milk, and even bread fresh well beyond the stamped date. That is surely one trick that will be put into use at The Daily Table. Rauch hopes that the restaurant, which will be affordable enough to compete with fast food giants, will encourage people who have less income to gravitate towards their more nutritious offerings. If The Daily Table is a success — if the food is tasty, nutritional, and affordable — and people can get over the idea of eating “expired” food, then perhaps we will be a small step closing to reducing our country’s massive food waste.
    "To begin, begin." ~William Wordsworth

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2005
    Illinois, USA
    My mom and I were just talking about this yesterday. As a rule I try not to buy products that are very close to their end-dates. I'm by myself, so I don't use things as quickly as a large family would. On the other hand, my mom purchased cottage cheese that was nowhere close to its end-date and still went bad within just a few days. If I know I'm going to use it up right away (such as before a weekend), I'll go ahead and buy even if it is close to the date on the package. My local Meijer sells bakery at a reduced price that is at or after its sell-by date. I have bought that too when I know it will be gone right away. But I try to be careful with the dates because it's just me.
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  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    I think the dates matter more in dairy products, and fresh produce. Not so much for canned and frozen foods.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2000
    Waltham, MA, USA
    What I have known since childhood is that dairy products have a "sell by" date - and are supposed to be good for a week after that date.

    Eggs, I ignore the date on the carton, and give them the float test. You can tell how fresh an egg is easily - fill a bowl or pan with water, place the egg in it. If it lays down, it is nice and fresh. If it stands straight up, it is very stale, may be used only for baking if flavor isn't an issue. If one end tilts up a bit, it is okay, just means it is somewhere in between. If it floats, discard!
    I've Been Frosted

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    St. Louis, Missouri
    As long as it looks/smells good and has no obvious "bad stuff" growing on it, I'll eat it, even if it's past the "best by" or expiration date.

    EDIT: And, yeah, same as Karen with eggs, milk, etc... I've had some gallons last a week after the "Expiration", and I've had some gallons (like the one I threw out yesterday) that went bad ON the expiration date ugh.


  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Aotearoa- New Zealand -Kia Ora, Tena Koutou,Haere Mai From the Land of the long white cloud.
    no i think the best before dates are really just a guideline with some foods, dairy products i would never use past their best before date, we have two shops here in my city that sell all the food past their dates at lower prices, they are extremely popular.
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  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    Blog Entries
    Most of the time around here the dairy products keep good after the expiration date but then it depends on the store cooling systems. There have been times I have gotten as an example half & half & it is curdled before the expiration date.

    What I don't like are dented cans that they sell at full price. I have taken them back to the manager & he said oh they are fine. I said good then you take the dented cans home to your family. I do a trade for a none dented can. They put some of the dented cans into special carts & sell them for half price. Maybe he didn't take them home to his family after all.

    Then with some of the dairy products you just about have to take them out to the vice grip to get those seals off. A person could stave to death struggling with those seals.
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  8. #8
    Join Date
    Sep 2002
    Canned and bottled stuff is more reliable than it was years ago.

    Now cans are lined and bottling plants are far cleaner.

    Milk products are good up to one week after their exp. dates (I always give milk a sniff test anyway.)

    Some veggies can be 'reclaimed' by putting them into a bag with a wet paper towel or by cutting off the 'bad spots'?


    In So Cal their is a chain of stores that slowly shift their stock over the network. Ralph's and Food 4 Less are located in So Cal.

    You can buy stuff that is fresh from the factory/farm from Ralph's at a premium price and as they stock gets old, it's shipped to the F4L stores where it's deeply discounted to get it out of the store.


    A bottle of tomato juice costs 3.50 at Ralphs, but when the expiration date gets close, they ship it out to F4L and they will sell bottles, 3 for 5 bucks!

    Sometimes the veggies are sketchy, but if you plan to use them quickly?

    It's no problem....
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