“Brothers make the best friends.”
A few posts back I printed some information/opinions about “use by” and “sell by” dates on foods. My brother, an amazing young man, who works in the brewing industry, had additional information to consider. Below are his comments in entirety. Thanks, Dan.
As the brother working in food manufacturing compliance, I’ve gotta point out the misunderstanding on your latest post.
You’re talking about “Best By” and “Sell By” dates.
These dates are for the retailer, the person delivering from the manufacturer, or the manufacturer. They are to control what gets into the consumers hands.
Our product contains hops. Hop flavor will change over time.
We have a specific flavor profile we’re going for AND it’s a flavor profile the customer expects.
If the customer buys it after the “Best By” date, there’s nothing wrong with it, but there’s a chance they might not be getting the flavor profile we want to present to them… the flavor profile they expect when reading the label.
The retailer and the person delivering from the manufacturer should be looking at code dates on our products and pull “expired” products from the shelves. Are they bad? Probably not, but the flavor could disappoint.
But that pre-packaged instant curry sauce. What happens if you get it home from the store, perform the “sniff test” THAT DAY and it’s bad? … and it’s past the “Sell By” date.
We now have a dis-satisfied customer who will have to take time to return the product or throw it away and waste money.
This is not a Good Thing™.
If it happens repeatedly, word gets around. The retailer, and possibly the manufacturer, can go out of business.
Having said all that, I see websites about Best By dates being (as one site says) “A myth that needs to be busted”.
There is no myth. The consumer is uninformed.
Here are a few tidbits from the above mentioned Food Safety Inspection Service website:
How do Manufacturers Determine Quality Dates?
Factors including the length of time and the temperature at which a food is held during distribution and offered for sale, the characteristics of the food, and the type of packaging will affect how long a product will be of optimum quality. Manufacturers and retailers will consider these factors when determining the date for which the product will be of best quality.
For example, sausage formulated with certain ingredients used to preserve the quality of the product or fresh beef packaged in a modified atmosphere packaging system that helps ensure that the product will stay fresh for as long as possible. These products will typically maintain product quality for a longer period of time because of how the products are formulated or packaged.
The quality of perishable products may deteriorate after the date passes, however, such products should still be safe if handled properly. Consumers must evaluate the quality of the product prior to its consumption to determine if the product shows signs of spoilage.
Are Dates for Food Safety or Quality?
Manufacturers provide dating to help consumers and retailers decide when food is of best quality. Except for infant formula, dates are not an indicator of the product’s safety and are not required by Federal law.
What Date-Labeling Phrases are Used?
There are no uniform or universally accepted descriptions used on food labels for open dating in the United States. As a result, there are a wide variety of phrases used on labels to describe quality dates.
Examples of commonly used phrases:
A “Best if Used By/Before” indicates when a product will be of best flavor or quality. It is not a purchase or safety date.
A “Sell-By” date tells the store how long to display the product for sale for inventory management. It is not a safety date.
A “Use-By” date is the last date recommended for the use of the product while at peak quality. It is not a safety date except for when used on infant formula as described below.
“There’s speculation that manufacturers want you to use the dates because it means you wind up throwing out and buying more of their product” is flat out wrong.
We want good product on the shelf. We want you to think our product is fantastic and buy more. You’re happy, we’re happy.
“However, it’s probably safe to say that you can ignore whatever date is printed on your food and go for a simple sniff test.”
Is spot-on correct. As mom used to say “If you’re not sure, don’t eat it”.
Sister Pat, aka Grandma Pat
Artist, African hand drum student, yoga neophyte, and Grandmother of 22 or so grandchildren. I enjoy cooking and writing. I value good friends and quiet times for reading.