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I am tired of the misunderstanding of these dates. Some people, swear by and are paranoidly afraid of any can of beans one day past the date stamped on the bottom. I once watched a food bank worker check the dates on cases of donated cans from a major grocer, and tossed out two oil barrels of perfectly good food . I was dumbfounded.
. People are starving and this worker was OK with them dying of starvation but was not willing to use judgement but accepted the can dates as a poison warning..
Producers place this date to get the retail store to run "special" ads, to move more product out the front door so the producer can sell more in to the back door. IT IS A MONEY THING. Our soldiers in the battlefield eat more "dangerous" food than we do.
BEST USED BY dates simply state the manufacturer opinion of when the food "is most tasty" BUT STLL GOOD. Yes, they want you to toss it and go buy more. More money in their pocket.
Often, the manufacturer has simply redesigned their label and want new stuff on the shelves to match TV ads. $$$$$
We waste millions of dollars each year, thousands per family. Just heat you dinner sufficiently and you will live.
Lighten up, everybody.

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  1. Well said, zimexlady. A little harsh, perhaps, but well said.

    1. Besides, the "sell by" date is not a "use by" date, which is entirely up to the buyer. Now and then you hear about a can of World War II C-rations being opened and found to be quite edible (if not very appetizing)..

      1. Lost a used bottle of squeeze butter in the boat. After 2 Florida summers and 2 years past date, it was still fine after being shaken up.

        The buttery gallon popcorn oil did turn rancid after a year past date.

        1 Reply
        1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

          I see that a lot more too.

          Foodstuffs in cans and glass jars last a long time if kept in a cool environment and out of the sun.

          Plastic containers, since they have teh ability to "breathe" and allow air into the contents over time often go rancid or bad far quicker.

          Mustards turn brown and loose their sharpness. Soda in plastic bottles goes flat.

          I;ve eaten canned goods that are years past thier stamped date will no ill affects except some can go "off taste" due to the can lining flavor transferring or if any of the can metal is exposed or compromised.

          For some reason this country is paranoid about everything. Especially food.

          OMG raw chicken. It might just as well be radioactive fallout for most folks.

          If food is bad, your nose or tastebuds will tell ya.They know.

          "Paranoia will destroy ya" as the song says.

        2. Lets say I find a can of cranberry jelly in the back of the panty that I bought for some log forgotten Thanksgiving. How's it going to save someone from starvation if I eat it instead of tossing it?

          4 Replies
          1. re: paulj

            Lets say, you have had no food for three days. That can of cranberry will give you another three days of life. I'll bet you would eat it.

            1. re: zimexlady

              I was struck by the contrast between your 'lighten up' phrase, and the general tone of the post, which, on the subject of food waste and 'people starving' was anything but light. I'm sure you meant that people should 'lighten up' on the issue of eating food paste the 'sell by date', but does that require preaching the other side of the coin?

              'Lighten up use dates because people are starving!' is a variation on 'think about all the starving children in ...' ploy to get kids to eat their peas. What about the other side of the nutrition issue - obesity and diabetes?

              The old cranberry sauce scenario is real. The choice between eating that and starving is an extreme scenario.

              1. re: paulj

                The old cranberry sauce scenario is real. The choice between eating that and starving is an extreme scenario.

                No kidding.

                Food waste (at least the examples in the OP) is a micro issue, which even if rectified will not solve world starvation, which is a macro problem beyond quick (and glib sounding) micro solutions.

                1. re: ipsedixit

                  On the other hand, a lot of perfectly good food that could be donated to food banks gets thrown away instead. Your can of cranberries might be a micro solution, but the amount of food discarded by your local supermarket could feed a lot of hungry people.

                  It amazes me that people think that something that's been "good" sitting on a shelf for 500 days turns into toxic waste on the 501st day.

          2. I imagine the food banks were tossing that food due to the amount of people who are willing to sue about pretty much anything. If they sell food that is out of date it just takes one money hungry fool with a greedy lawyer behind them to shut the whole bank down. Food banks should probably have a policy that states people buy canned food at their own risk.

            Personally I use common sense to tell if something is past its best.

            10 Replies
            1. re: Musie

              CORRECT.......common sense. Your nose knows.

              1. re: zimexlady

                People who are at Food Banks are already in a bad place in their life and feeling embarrassed in that they never had occasion to go to a Food Bank prior. Even though it should be a temporary bridge for people, Food Banks are becoming a 'normal' shopping trip. I doubt the Food Bank worker was thinking of the outdated items as 'poison'.

                To be given choices of rows and rows of possibly good/outdated foods only would be depressing and in a lot of ways, demeaning.

                1. re: Cathy

                  Most food bank worker know it is not poison. They understand the due date system. My original post was related to a misinformed worker who was "reassigned" after iher action was discovered.
                  . She applied her personal opinion to the sorting task., ignoring the Food Bank judgement. .

                  1. re: zimexlady

                    There is very little dignity left for people who have to go to Food Banks. It is within the right of the Food Bank to use or not use donations, to give their patrons a bit of dignity in this world.

                    If you want to take the all discards from a Food Bank and use all of those to create your own organization, go for it. Do not question others who are helping to feed those in need using properly dated merchandise.

                    If you have ever been in a Disaster Zone situation, you would notice that donations of used clothing are not accepted nor are donations of random foods; the Red Cross and other organizations ask for cash or gift certificates, so those in need can have access to new/fresh items. Again, to keep people who are already depressed from feeling they are only good enough for hand-me-downs.

                    Your initial post said nothing about a Food Bank disciplining someone for not accepting dated items. If it did happen, then it was corrected and your speaking about 'waste' did not happen.

                    1. re: Cathy

                      Do I stand corrected by Cathy, a most literal poster?
                      Her misunderstanding of this entire thread is the use of the phrase "properly dated ".

                      1. re: zimexlady

                        I have no argument about personally consuming food past the "best by" date. I have purchased marked down/close to expiration date and day old foods and have done so my entire adult life.

                        I do have a very strong disagreement with your being upset that Food Banks should have those same standards and your implication those organizations are wasteful when they refuse to redistribute past dated items. It is the choice of those organizations to do whatever they wish with donations.

                        A personal choice is completely different than an organizational choice of providing for the less fortunate.

                        1. re: Cathy

                          No.1 Food manufacturers do not stamp truthful due dates that reflect a real "it is spoiled, do not eat" condition. Their agenda is to move product off the shelf before it is "spoiled, do not eat" condition. They know the pubic is influenced by the due date they have elected to stamp on the product.....thus, more will be tossed and more will be sold.. IT IS A FINANCIAL PLOY and a smart one.
                          Have you nooticed that we are told to buy our fresh produce, take it home, wash and DRY it before storing?
                          Yet, the green grocer has a constant misty spray of cold water all over the produce. When you DRY it, it spoils faster and you go buy some more.
                          I place my produce in the bottom drawer of my fridge with ice cold water in each baggie and nothing spoils for a month. I am not tossing out slimy lettuce, tomatoes, parsley, chives, bell peppers. Why does the green grocer keep a cold spray on your produce BEFORE you buy it then tell you just the opposite way to store when you get home? Spoil faster, sell more.

                          No.2 Dignity has nothing to do with it.

                          No.3 I work with church food lines, food banks, charities and have experienced only that one incident of the worker tossing "day old" food out. She had never experienced a severe food budget is my guess and was a fish out of reality.

                          1. re: zimexlady

                            While I don't know any Food Bank policies or practicies regarding 'sell by' or 'use by' - I do think that the idea of dismissing 'dignity' out of hand goes against the bulk of current thinking. Microfinance projects are so popular to address poverty because they are shown to be successful, and in evaluation of the projects part of their success has been related to the dignity that it offers the participants taking out the small loans. Gleaning nonprofits also follow that idea as do nonprofit restaurants (places that combine giving various populations opportunities to learn how to work in a professional kitchen while selling meals at dramatically reduced prices for specific populations).

                            The tragic reality of the world is that we have the science and technology to prevent hunger, but not the mobilization and effort. If I have an establishment that is capable to feed all the hungry people of the world - but it's an establishment that makes people feel horrible to use, then it won't work.

                            I'm not saying your point about mismarked dates is wrong - just don't discount the importance of dignity.

                2. re: zimexlady

                  CORRECT.......common sense. Your nose knows.

                  Your nose, and mine, does not know listeria.

                3. re: Musie

                  and that too is a tragedy. having been employed in a previous incarnation at a giant hotel, I can tell you the amount of food they waste, especially after a big holiday to-do is criminal. the obvious solution is to enact "good Samaritan" laws to both the food banks and the providers--restos, hotels and grocery stores.

                  a lot more people would be fed and there would be a lot less waste. why should you be liable if you're trying to help someone?

                  great thread, thanks. .it should be forwarded to the NYT or HufPo.

                4. Totally agree with OP! Have a sweet SIL who probably throws away hundreds of dollars in food... tosses things in fridge even BEFORE the "best by" date!?!

                  My "pantry" is 2 sets of metal shelves in my garage. Periodically, have to do a reorganization... try to keep similar items together... canned veggies, soups, condiments. Don't have anything ANCIENT, but would only consider tossing a can of about anything past its date would be if it even had the slightest BULGE to top/bottom. DON'T even think of opening... can make a MAJOR mess.

                  Used to have supermarket that would seriously reduce meat prices on stuff 3-4 days before "sell by" date. With proper handling and a fridge that is COLD... a package or beef/pork/chicken should be absolutely FINE for a few days before cooking. I'd often stck up on seriously reduced meat and either cook that day or next or repackage and vac seal for freezer.

                  They also had a section for that I called "misfit" produce. Dirt cheap, never gross or rotten, just not magazine cover beautiful. Came home one day with at least a dozen big artichokes for $1-2. The parts that weren't "pretty" were the outer leave which I wasn't gonna eat anyway. One time it was a 5 lb bag of organic apples. One or 2 were a little banged up but made great apple sauce or baked apples.

                  Once stocked up on bottled salad dressings... one of those 10/$10 deals. Anything that was pretty much a vinegarette... was fine when I finally got to it. Anything creamy... didn't go BAD, but had a kinda stale taste... lesson learned.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: kseiverd

                    I just now returned from Kroger and bought three packages of frozen stir fry vegetables. Placing them in my freezer, I noticed all three had due dates of Jan 2011. Will note the condition when I fry and bet they are very good.
                    Hmmmmm, Could the producer have made a mistake in packaging? Is Kroger worried about liability? I think not.

                    1. re: kseiverd

                      I have a cousin who does the same. I had an utter fit when she went to toss out my beautiful yogurts two days before their "expiration" date. She was sure I was going to be poisoned. Geesh!
                      Also had to recently convince a colleague that a salad 1 day past its date was fine to eat.
                      These companies have a great con going on.

                    2. A search in General Topics for 'food waste' turned up these threads from this year:

                      GENERAL TOPICS Wedding Halls - Food Waste
                      I have really been getting on people about food waste lately. I was at a wedding last night and everything was amazing, but I noticed that at the end of cocktail hour each station... (39 replies, last updated by fourunder June 13, 2012)
                      GENERAL TOPICS Food waste in USA
                      hardly throw away, as I cook them pretty often, veggies tended to get thrown away more, but now I just go to the store more often and I don’t buy veggies all at once. We... (105 replies, last updated by Kajikit January 7, 2012)
                      GENERAL TOPICS What IS this food everyone is reportedly wasting?
                      Following on from the 'let’s waste less food' thread (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/825146) - what food do you actually 'waste'? Where I live food waste is collected... (90 replies, last updated by honkman January 25, 2012
                      )GENERAL TOPICS Food Waste - What have you wasted Today/This week/Last week??
                      it to go to waste. My step-son buys his own food and he’s got a shelf and a half, there’s 3 yogurts that are a full month past expiration and some lunch meat that looks funky, but... (37 replies, last updated by Munkipawse January 28, 2012)
                      GENERAL TOPICS Wasted Food - How to Stop This Horrible Habit
                      Based on my own observations, wasting (throwing away) food is attributable to a number of factors, some of them existing is combination with others depending on the household. 1.... (359 replies, last updated by cstout March 30, 2012)

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: paulj

                        Major grocers give retirement homes and food banks (charities and churches, etc). dozens of boxes of "today's date" bread, cakes, donuts, pies, croisants, hoagies rolls.. cookies, cinnamon rolls.
                        Even some of those organizations have to toss it after 3-4 days. Why do these grocers over buy quantities of canned goods and over produce baked goods? There is the source of waste.

                        1. re: zimexlady

                          Why do these grocers over buy quantities of canned goods and over produce baked goods? There is the source of waste.

                          Do you also ponder why there's so much salt in the ocean?

                          1. re: ipsedixit

                            Why are we not hearing from someone in the industry? I would like them to jump in here and refute these opinions.

                            1. re: zimexlady

                              What industry?

                              The industry that wastes food?

                          2. re: zimexlady

                            Manufacturers, stores, and restaurants cannot predict demand with precision (though they certainly try their best). Sometimes it is ok to err on the undersupply side. But more often you risk customer good will if you have to tell them 'we have run out'. All stores (not just food) have to deal with merchandise that does not sell well.

                            Regarding baked goods, in many cases someone from the bakery delivers them, stocks the shelves, and picks up unsold items. These are then taken back to the bakery distribution center, and sold at a discount in their store. If you want good deals on bread look up such a store.

                            There's a regular thread on the San Francisco board about great finds at Grocery Outlet. Many of their products are overstocks or items nearing the sell date. Most of my cheese purchases are from a local butcher that gets bargins from other groceries. I've gotten some great deals, along with a few items that too ripe.

                            You may have a good understanding of 'best by dates', but I think you need to learn more about the retail business, and food distribution channels, before you criticize their buying practices.

                            1. re: paulj

                              No criticism. I asked WHY? Please re-read my post. That means "someone explain it to me".

                        2. <People are starving and this worker was OK with them dying of starvation>

                          Seriously? Here's a woman working in a food bank for people who're not getting enough to eat and she's 'OK with them dying of starvation'?

                          <Lighten up, everybody>

                          You may wish to take your own advice?

                          1 Reply
                          1. It's worth keeping in mind that when you see estimates about how much food is wasted, that they likely refer to all stages, from harvesting to consumer. It's relatively easy to collect data from farmers and businesses about how much they have to toss or loose to various sources. But it's much harder to estimate how much consumers toss, and especially how much they toss due to package dates.

                            How is any kind of survey or study going to distinguish between the food your neighbor tosses 2 days before the 'date', and the food that you consume 3 days after? Or account for the cans that have been languishing in the pantry for the past 5 years?