Food Packaging Date Marks: What you need to know.
Almost all the packaged foods you buy off the supermarket shelves come with some sort of date- a best before date, a use by date, an expiration date and sometimes in the case of bread, a baked on date. You must be wondering, what's the difference?
Best Before Dates
Think of these as a guide to when you should consume your food by; before it starts deteriorating. Food that goes past their best before dates by a few days should be safe to consume however it is advisable to give it a little whiff and a once over to check if there have been any damage done to the packaging that could cause rapid deterioration of food quality. An easy way of remembering it is this - best before dates are usually a guide of food quality rather than food safety.
Use By and Expiration Dates
Essentially, use by and expiration dates tell the consumer when food should be eaten before it is no longer safe for consumption. These are the dates that you should really look out for as going past these advisable dates can increase your risk of food poisoning. Perishable foods like meat and dairy products are usually equipped with use by dates.
Things to look out for
While consumers are advised to adhere to best before or use by dates, it is also relevant to note the importance of food storage as these can affect the freshness of the product, making the date markings inconsequential. Proper food storage directions are usually explicitly found on the food packaging or label and should be observed by the consumer. Failure to comply to the appropriate directions may result in a rapid decrease of food quality and freshness. It is always a good habit to take a good sniff before consuming the product!
Why It's Important
Food wastage is a growing problem that not everyone is aware of. According to a previous study done by the NSW government, it's estimated that Australians discard 20% of food they purchase- which equates to about 1 out of 5 grocery bags, an average of $1036 per household annually and approximately the weight of 3 regular fridges!
Food waste accumulates in landfills, decomposing to produce poisonous greenhouse gases and methane- which are both detrimental to the current state of the Earth. On top of that, resources used to produce and manufacture said food products go to waste.
How to Prevent Food Waste
Knowing the difference between a best before date and a use by date could help reduce food wastage by a lot. This prevents us from prematurely throwing out food that are still 100% safe for consumption.
Shop smarter. Look at what you've got in your kitchen cabinets before leaving the house for a food shop, create a shopping list or even a simple weekly meal plan could make a heap of difference in terms of food wastage.
If you live in Sydney, then you should definitely check out places like the OzHarvest Market when thinking of chucking out your extra can of beans because you forgot you already had 5 in your cupboards. OzHarvest is Australia's first rescue supermarket which aims selling donated or unwanted food that would otherwise go to waste but is still perfectly edible!
While it might feel like small change in habits might not affect the big picture, you'd be surprised by how much one person could have an affect on everyone else. Remember, small change is still change.
What date marks do I need on my product?
If you are planning to bring a new food product to market, knowing what date marks your food product needs to have included on your packaging is crucial to ensuring the product is salable within the Australian market. Chatting to a specialist in the area is advised, and a good investment in the success of your product.
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