Saturday, February 25, 2017

Food Labels: ENJOY BY, USE BY, or SELL BY?

Have you ever noticed that refrigerated bags of salad mix are marked with an ENJOY BY date but cartons of milk instead are marked with a USE BY date.

Does that mean that if I leave that bag in the refrigerator a few days too long I can use it, but I won’t enjoy it? (By then the iceberg lettuce will be an unattractive brown).

What about a bag of corn kernel snacks that says BEST IF USED BY? And what about the SELL BY date also seen on other packages?

On February 15th there was a press release from the Grocery Manufacturers Association titled Grocery Industry Launches New Initiative to Reduce Consumer Confusion on Product Date Labels. It described how:

“The new voluntary initiative streamlines the myriad date labels on consumer products packaging down to just two standard phrases. BEST If Used Bydescribes product quality, where the product may not taste or perform as expected but is safe to use or consume. USE Byapplies to the few products that are highly perishable and/or have a food safety concern over time; these products should be consumed by the date listed on the package – and disposed of after that date.”

The web page on Food Product Dating from the United States Department of Agriculture says that:

Except for infant formula, dates are not an indicator of the product’s safety and are not required by Federal law.”

On the 1998 comedy DVD by Jerry Seinfeld titled I’m Telling You for the Last Time there is a routine on Supermarkets that includes a section about the expiration date for milk. You can watch a version with subtitles in Portuguese on YouTube:

“How do they know that is the definite exact day? You know, they don’t say like it’s in the vicinity, give or take, roughly. They brand it right into the side of the carton and they HISS (makes a sizzling noise). That’s your goddamn day, right there! Oh, don’t screw with us. We know what day is the final day. And then it is so over. Did you ever have milk the day after the day. Scares the hell out of you, doesn’t it?”  

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