Opinion

'Best before' dates have multiple applications

I read an interesting article on “Best Before” dates and “Expiry” dates. Apparently they are different.

Best before or best by dates are only advisory and refer to the quality of the product, in contrast with expiry dates, which indicate that the product may no longer be safe to consume after the specified date. Foods with a best before date are usually safe to eat for a time after that date, although they are likely to have deteriorated either in appearance or nutritional value. Now you understand.

These dates are established for our health and safety as guidelines. Generally, expiry dates on milk bottles are taken seriously, best before dates on beer cans are always ignored.

My generation grew up without expiry dates on most  products.  If there were, with six kids in my family, food in the fridge or cupboard never lasted long enough to reach an expiry date. I recall our nose being the best tool to determine if something should not be eaten or drank.

But that didn’t always mean food or milk was thrown out. If we had overripe bananas turning black, we knew there would be a loaf of banana bread cooling on the kitchen counter by evening. If milk ever did start to go sour, it was never poured down the drain. It just meant a chocolate cake would appear shortly and disappear just as fast. Everything was “best eaten before” the kids got home from school.

I don’t recall the jars of preserves in the cupboard having anything more written on the lid than the  year they were put down. The sacks of potatoes and carrots in the cold, dark  root house were at least good for the entire winter.

I think we all should be stamped with a “Best Before” date or an “Expiry” date when we enter this world. It would be so much easier for parents, teachers, spouses, or doctors to just lift up our arm and look at the dates stamped there.

If a teacher knew a boy in her class was “Best Before” lunch hour, she could pound lessons into him in the morning and ignore him for the rest of the day. If you knew when you hired an employee that he was “Best Before” Wednesday, put him on a three-day week and get the most out of him you can. If you knew the girl you were seeing was Best Before the third date —  no, that’s not a good example.

Would you pay for 18 holes of golf if you knew you were “Best Before” the 10th hole? If you knew you were past your “Best Before” date, would you keep on jogging and exercising right up close to your expiry date? You have to know when you’ve gone past that overripe point.

I think doctors would love this. You go there with aches and pains, coughing and wheezing. Instead of sending you to a specialist or prescribing hundreds of dollars of drugs, he simply lifts up your arm, looks at your stamp and says, “Well you know Bob, not much I can do. You are pretty close to your expiry date, not much shelf life left.” This gives your spouse a clear message that it’s time to go shopping again.

Let’s all work on extending our “Expiry” dates. I think our “Best Before” dates are still ahead of us. At least that’s what McGregor says.

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