"USE BY" FOOD DATES WASTE BILLIONS
I have to hide food which is past its supposed expiration date or Mary dumps it in the garbage.
By some incredible chemical disaster, the food is said in some bizarre world to change from healthy to dangerous in only 24 hours on the date stamped on the package by food companies.
They are, I charge, deliberately allowing this myth to fester with Mary and hundreds of millions throughout North America. Somehow, food past that doomsday date will make us sick. In reality, all that happens is there may be some decline in taste.
So we toss it and giant corporations sell more product. There are estimates by the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) in a current study done with the Harvard Law School that up to 25% of the food that Americans buy is not consumed but dumped.
In fact, I read about a previous study by the NRDC that said up to 40% of the food is not eaten, for an estimated loss just in the United States of $165 billion.
Just Google the subject on the Internet and you will find all sorts of horror stats, but I really don't care because I know from personal experience, and decades of squabbles on the subject, that it seems most women are suspicious of all food that is more than two days old, and most men will consume anything as long as they can scrape off the mould.
The motto for what we used to call the housewife is simple: When in doubt, throw it out. Except all that's happened is, perhaps, a minor decline in taste which would only be noticed by some gourmands, or so they would cllaim
There isn't a family that wouldn't benefit far more from university and federal studies into this subject instead of the various federally-funded esoteric topics that are detailed by the auditor general in those annual horror stories into wastage.
Like how many cow farts does it take to create a tonne of methane. Or how many gay couples can dance on the head of a pin.
This is a more important subject than the few paragraphs at the end of a recent column in Canadian Business magazine. The item had a useful quote from William Navarre, a molecular geneticist at University of Toronto: "There is no magic switch that turns food from being healthy to dangerous on its expiry date. Moreover, the vast majority of bacteria and fungi involved in spoilage are not toxic, but spoiled food will turn your stomach with smell and taste."
I knew that back in my single days. Even if food allmost made me gag, it wasn't going to poison me. But then I got married and Mary gets suspicious of just about anything that has sat in the fridge for more than an hour. For example, I have to cook and consume one of my favourite foods, chicken pie from Costco, within an hour of carrying it in from the porch. Yogurt is suspicious before I get it out of the store, and the really old cheddar, which may already have little green blossoms from the "spoilage" that helped create it in the first place, is viewed as a probable cause for plague.
By the way, Navarre told the magazine that most refrigerators are a tad warm and if you want to keep food fresher, turn the thermostat down.
Time magazine has a columnist, Joel Stein, who is often so different whimsically that you wonder why you're reading him, but he zeroed in on this study from a spousal war perspective under the headline Till Mould Do Us Part.
I really could identify. He also hid food from his wife that he wanted to eat rather than trash.
He gave some history about the "sell-by eat-by" dates that caused the NRDC and law school to recommend elimination because they are so confusing and misleading.
Apparently these tortured semantics of date info, which avoid the killer word of "expiration," but say instead "use by, enjoy by, sell by, best before," was dreamed up by local and state organizations as a guide to consumers about when the product would be freshest. Yet it has become known as the date that is your last chance to avoid food poisoning.
Stein also quoted a scientist, in this case an NRDC expert, who made a statement that I intend to paint on the kitchen wall. Food poisoning comes from contamination, not spoilage.
For example, this scientist, Dana Gunders, said that eggs are good a month after their date. (Heck, I'm no scientist but I knew that. It used to take a winter to get eggs so rotten that when we used the stinking eggs as added ammunition in a snow ball fight, the loser wasn't allowed in the farmhouse.)
Stein tried to get comment from the industry without much luck, although General Mills said it's "better if used by" dates are based on "sensory evaluation" by "product developers and expert tasters."
In other words, based on taste, not on whether it will bed you.
Apparently there is at least one country which insists on having two dates on food package, the first related to taste and the second related to danger. Now that compromise makes some sense.
I remember using a remote cabin in the Yukon Territory for a weekend of fishing when the grayling really didn't co-operate in the mountain stream. But there was some food in an old cupboard. From the newspapers lining the shelf, it seemed they were canned just after the Gold Rush. Not that bad, however.
The Time columnist claimed victory by the end of the column when his wife said she would now keep old eggs but then asked him to smell something later to see if it had gone bad. It was buttermilk. Sneaky, since buttermilk always smells bad.
I think Stein is just another husband losing just another fight in the kitchen. Unfortunately, I know what side Mary would be on.