While it's nice to know when it was packaged, I'd like to know when it expires.
- Michelly Mar 12, 2013 04:01 PM
Too often when buying deli or produce, there will be a "packed on mm/dd/yy" but no expiration date. While I can figure out that a two-week old loaf of bread is probably past its prime, a cheese can be gone in a week or three, even four. Yes, there's the sniff test, but it'd be nice to just glance at the label and see that not only is the raclette good now, it will still be good next week.
I'd prefer a "best by" date than a "packed on" date...or better yet, put both.
I think packed on dates are pretty common here in the US, but I only see them on products that shelf stable for long storage, like canned tomatoes. I don't think I've ever seen it on meat or cheese. I know the packed on dates are frequently used to identifying effected products during safety recalls.
Packed on dates, as you note are very useful for tracing food-based illnesses and if needed product recall. Most dates are not there for the consumer to use, but for either food safety of the system as a whole or use by retailers to take product off of shelves under the assumption of some level of food safety compliance.
A problem with open dating / best used by / sell by / expiration dates is also as you note, different foods have different "expiration" dates. Not only is cheese different than crackers, but soft cheese different than hard cheese, then cheese in wax is different than sliced cheese / shredded cheese. Packaging changes things, freeze-drided powered cheese, vacuum packed cheese vs cheese cheese wrapped in wax paper, vs cheese in plastic wrap, cheese in oil, cheese in water, canned cheese, I haven't had pickled cheese but someone somewhere must have trued it... Also, the expiration date varies depending of food storage and handling, eg frozen vs refrigerated, shipping in refrigerated trucks?
You can't enforce regulation of open dating expiration dates unless you regulate the variables involved in setting what a reasonable expiration date is. For one specific product (eg infant formula) the federal government feels that the product is homogeneous enough that the variables are reduced to a regulateable level, and there is enough government interest to do so.
Other products that require open labeling are done at a state level, which can take into account food handling peculiarities in their regional level (either environmentally based or local regulatory environment based). Even then it is limited to certain products that they feel that there is enough government interest and few enough product based variables.
The only occasion I believe I have noticed packed on date is on pre-sliced cold cuts and or ready made meals. Many stores now pre-slice cold cuts and leave them in a deli case for people who don't want to wait in line so the "packed on date" I assumed was to assure people they were freshly sliced and not day-two old sitting in the case.
Pre-made meals same theory. Those are the only two times I have noticed it.
Better both, yes. But I would rather have the 'In' date than the 'Out' date, which is often ridic: "Best if used by a year from June', I guess so. If I know when it was packed, I can figure out how long I feel comfortable using it.
Our store has a sell by date but not a use by. Usually at our house Inwill eat within a week or less depending on the item.
Once the product leaves the deli, an expiration date is hard to define since it's all dependent upon how the customer treats the goods. Also there's personal bias involved. Some people won't touch anything that's a week old, no matter how fresh it looks, smells and taste.
I had a French roommate in college. For him, cheese never went bad. No matter what color the fuzz on the cheese.
Also, the best buy dates are kind of bogus. They're not really based upon any testing.