Food that lasts longer
FOOD safety experts have expressed the value of understanding labels as misleading dates continue to cut the lifespan of produce.
Experts are encouraging consumers to double check the date on their food as the difference between ‘best before’ and ‘used by’ is resulting in more waste than necessary.
With World Food Safety Day on June 7, an annual call was placed for the production and consumption of safe food to benefit the people, planet and economy.
Food technologist Dr Alison Jones from UNSW School of Chemical Engineering is creating awareness to further prevent and manage foodborne diseases.
“Food manufacturers are responsible for determining the type of date marked on their products to help give consumers a guide as to how long the food product will last before it deteriorates,” she said.
“This is particularly important in determining the quality, nutrition and microbiological safety of food.”
Ms Jones explained that a use-by date means the safety of the product cannot be guaranteed after the displayed date and should be avoided while the best before indicates the product may lose some quality but should still be safe to consume “for a little time after.”
“Foods that commonly carry best-before dates are those which do not support the growth of pathogens or, in the case of fresh meat for example, where a later process such as cooking will destroy any bacteria that might be present,” she said.
“Some foods, such as canned products, don’t need to be labelled because they have a best-before date of over two years, and it becomes difficult for food manufacturers to give an accurate guide.
“The best advice is to look for signs of deterioration, spoilage and/or damage such as mould, slime, rancidity, off-flavours or odours, staling, gas-production or broken packaging.”
Before determining the dates displayed on labels, companies must conduct a number of shelf-life studies by testing the growth of any spoilage microbes, loss of nutrients, changes in water activity as well as the physical, chemical or biochemical changes.
“As a consumer, you should follow any of the manufacturer’s specific storage instructions to ensure the best-before and use-by dates are effective,” she said.