Sunday, August 29, 2010


Food spoilage and the consequent effect of its consumption on health are issues that worry many consumers. Food safety authorities world over thought about labeling as a transparent way of communication between the processor and the consumer and the system works more or less satisfactorily helping the buyers with many critical information on the contents of any given package. While technical information such as nutrient composition, ingredient details, food additives used and others are not easily comprehended by the buyer, "date of expiry" or "best before use" readily strikes a chord with the consumers. Invariably such declarations on the label are taken as absolute because of compliance to food regulations which mandate the manufacturers to make such declarations on the label of each packet. Ideally the industry should generate actual data on product shelf life before making a declaration whereas in practice this information is at best based on "guestimates". Manufacturers even reduce the expiry period in many cases to safeguard their interests against violations and legal hassle after the product is placed on the super market shelf. How can the consumer know whether any product, after the expiry of date is over, can still be safe or not?.A difficult option indeed considering the risks associated with microbial spoilage of foods. There are helpful tips from consumer activists regarding this issue which may help to take decisions under such circumstances.

"Are you one of those people who pour the milk down the drain on the expiration date? Expiration dates on food products can protect consumer health, but those dates are really more about quality than safety, and if not properly understood, they can also encourage consumers to discard food that is perfectly safe to eat.A recent poll of more than 2,000 adults showed that most of us discard food we believe is unsafe to eat, which is a good thing, of course, but it is important that we understand what food expiration dates mean before we dump our food -- and our money -- down the drain or into the garbage. Which five foods are most often feared as being unsafe after the printed date? According to, we are most wary of milk, cottage cheese, mayonnaise, yogurt, and eggs, and offers these helpful explanations":

Is it not strange that the very government which stipulates mandatory declaration of shelf life, some time feel that the system is leading to unnecessary waste of precious foods? It was only recently a minister in the UK government implored people not to throw away packed date expired foods blindly without looking at the contents just because the label says so. But how can a consumer with his limited knowledge of food spoilage and its implications decide whether a date expired food is safe or not. It is unlikely that any consumer will take such a risk considering the consequences of a mistake in taking the decision. There is one cardinal principle old grandma used to follow while deciding about the safety of food, that is to smell first and taste a little bit without swallowing to detect any off flavor or off taste which would be sure signs of deterioration. Also practiced is to heat the old food before consumption to ensure destruction of pathogens if any in the food. While avoiding waste is important, by being judicious in deciding about the edibility of many date expired food products makes eminent sense in reducing the food bill of the house hold.


No comments: