“Ohio State Researchers: Milk Date Labels Contribute to Food Waste”
Source: Ohio State Researchers: Milk Date Labels Contribute to Food Waste | Agweb.com
So I ran across this item this morning over at Agweb and while I agree that the dating system used on most food products is often highly misleading, there are statements in that article that I find troubling.
Generally speaking, the dates you see on most food products you buy in the grocery store are pretty much completely bogus. I certainly agree with that. Often those dates have nothing to do with the safety of the product.
Most of the time the date is about product quality. After the date on the label, the product begins to lose flavor or the texture degrades. There is nothing actually wrong with the product, it just might not taste as good as one would like. Sometimes the dates are utterly ridiculous. I was looking at dried beans for soup the other day and noticed there were “use by” dates on them and found myself wondering how in the world dried beans could go bad because they pretty much can’t. As long as they’re stored properly, don’t get wet, and the packaging is intact, those dried beans should be perfectly fine for food for years and years. I’ve even heard that a lot of those dates aren’t based on any kind of research, but are just picked out of thin air by the manufacturer.
But when it comes to dairy products, meat and other food items that require refrigeration, I become a bit more wary, and here is where I begin to disagree with the article over on Agweb. It makes this statement:
“Pasteurized milk is safe past the sell-by date unless it has been cross-contaminated. While it may not taste as good — it can go sour and have flavors that people don’t like and may make them feel nausea — but it isn’t going to make them sick.”
Now wait just a minute… Your senses of smell and taste are your first line of defense against spoiled or contaminated food that could potentially make you ill. If your milk smells sour, has “off” smells, has an odd texture or doesn’t seem right in some way, don’t use it. Yes, it could be “safe” in that it won’t actually make you sick, but can you tell the difference between milk that has merely gone a bit sour or milk that is actually gone bad? Do you want to take the chance?
And that statement about nausea? Really? Foods that make you throw up are fine to eat? Look, if consuming a food product makes you feel nausea or makes you throw up, that food has, by definition, made you sick. Nausea is not a normal reaction to consuming food. It is a symptom that something is wrong.
So yes, the sell-by dates on most food products are pretty much bogus. But you need to use common sense. I don’t care what this guy says up there in that quote. If a food product does not smell right, looks odd, and doesn’t taste right, don’t use it. Yes, it might be “safe”, but do you want to take that chance?
4 thoughts on ““Milk Date Labels Contribute to Food Waste | Agweb.com” article offers potentially dangerous advice”
Milk is probably one of the only dates I trust on food. Which, considering milk has it’s own markers – as you say smell or taste it’s freshness – is kind of silly.
Most of the rest of them are ways to resell a product.
A lot of the “sell by” dates aren’t even based on any kind of real testing. The manufacturer just makes up something that sounds reasonable. Most products, except refrigerated items, are safe to eat far beyond the date on the package.
Packaging is a problem with some products, though, especially those packed in plastic bottles and jars. Chemicals from the plastic can leach into the product over time. I’m told that’s why bottled water has expiration dates. Whether that’s true or not is something I haven’t really looked into. Products packed in glass containers will probably have a much, much longer shelf life I would think.
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I ws always suspicious of expiration dates too. If a can of soup has a date of February 22 on it, what happens on February 23? Does it suddenly turn to crap?
I know what you mean. Strange, isn’t it? Here’s another odd thing I noticed, this with yogurt. One brand of Greek style yogurt available at our local grocery store comes in two sizes, the small, single serving cup, and a large 24 oz tub. The single serving size cups always have exp. dates that are, at most, 8 days away when they’re stocked. The 24 oz tubs have exp dates that are at least 15 – 20 days away. Same product, same type of plastic used for the tubs or cups, but the 24 oz tubs have a claimed shelf life that is at least 10 days longer than the single serving size. No idea why.