Confusion around best before dates results in tons of food waste every year

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Best before and best before dates on foods confuse consumers – and tons of waste every year, researchers say.

UK supermarket chain Morrisons has been reported to remove expiration dates from milk packaging and instead encourage shoppers to sniff their milk to determine if it is fresh. Bottles will always have best before dates, like New Zealand milk.

Morrisons is the first UK supermarket to switch to milk, after removing expiration dates on some of its own-branded yoghurt and hard cheese lines in 2020.

Reports say 7 percent of UK milk production has been wasted and there are similar concerns in this country. Every year, 8,426 tonnes of dairy products are thrown away by New Zealanders.

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So how do “best before” and “best before” dates work?

Foods with a shelf life of less than two years are sold with a date.

“Best before” dates are required for health and safety reasons to reduce the risk of people getting sick, and appear on perishable foods such as meats, poultry and deli products.

Best before dates provide information about the quality of a food. Food can be sold and eaten after the expiration date, provided it is stored properly. But it may have lost some nutritional value and taste different.

“The best before date of foods is an indicator of quality and not strictly a food safety issue,” said Steve Flint, professor of food safety and microbiology at Massey University.

Yet New Zealanders throw away more than 220,000 tonnes of food a year, more than half of which could have been eaten, according to Consumer NZ.

Bread and vegetables make up the majority of this waste.

Dairy products in New Zealand use the best before date.

Kendall Hutt / Stuff

Dairy products in New Zealand use the best before date.

“The main problem we have is making sure consumers understand what they mean,” Flint said of the different dates.

“One suggestion would be to have a label to replace the ‘use by’ date which is ‘do not use after’,” he said.

So how long will the food last?

It all depends on the water and protein content of the food, how fresh and good it was when you bought it, and how it was stored, said Belinda Castles, research author for Consumer NZ.

“In addition to date information, it’s also important to track specific storage conditions on a product – for example, whether a product needs to be refrigerated or consumed within a certain time frame after opening. “

Bread

Love Food Hate Waste data shows that we collect 15,174 tonnes of bread per year.

Bread keeps the longest in the freezer, but if the bread is in the pantry, it should be kept in its wrapper and stored in a cool, dry place, ideally in a loaf pan if you have one. Stored properly, it can last up to a week in a closet.

Eggs

Eggs last up to three to five weeks in the refrigerator and can be eaten for a few days after the “best before” date.

Use the float test to determine if they have exploded – if they don’t sink into a pot of water, approach with caution.

Eggs last up to three to five weeks in the refrigerator and can be eaten for a few days after the expiration date.

Andy Jackson / Stuff

Eggs last up to three to five weeks in the refrigerator and can be eaten for a few days after the expiration date.

Dairy products

Dairy products, such as milk and yogurt, will smell sour and curdled when turned off. Milk should be fine for up to a week after its expiration date, provided it has been kept in the refrigerator the entire time, while yogurt can last a few weeks in the refrigerator.

Canned food

The holy grail of all emergency kits across the country, many cans don’t even have a date. As long as the box is not badly damaged, the food can be eaten safely for years to come.

Chocolate

You don’t need to throw away your secret stash of goodies if they’ve been there for a while, you can safely eat chocolate after its expiration date. It should last up to two years.

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