best before date on canned food, close up.

The Scary Truth: How Supermarkets Play With Best Before Dates

Must of us know that grocers have a legal obligation to look out for our safety, which means they are not allowed to sell consumers over expired food. Or is this a myth?

Best before dates (or expiration dates) on food packaging informs us approximately when the food we purchase goes bad. While some food remains relatively safe to eat once the best before date has come and gone, other food products are not safe at all to eat. Not only that, but there are other products sold at grocers that are not safe for us to use once the expiration date has passed, such as makeup.

While we trust grocers to have our best interest in mind when it comes to our safety, various undercover investigations in Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States have taught us that this is not always true. You would be surprised at some of the practices grocery store owners, and managers have implemented to save money. Most of these practices involve manipulating the best before dates, so they do not lose money. For this reason, we need to know the truth about best before dates.

Young woman in grey clothes is holding hands on belly.

Best Before Dates Do Not Mean Anything

Most consumers believe that terms such as “display until,” “expires on,” “best if used by,” and “sell by” are well-regulated terms that mean something. The reality is: such terms do not necessarily hold any weight when it comes to governmental regulation. To understand why this is so, one must first understand how the western societies started moving away from producing their food to purchasing it from corner stores. By the 1970s, most Americans were buying their food from large grocers.

As more of our food became processed, manufacturers had to come up with a method of informing grocers when to rotate their food stock. These codes originally had nothing to do with informing the consumer when food products were no longer edible. While these codes were never meant for consumers to worry about, it goes without saying that some curious person found out how to decipher the codes. This individual eventually released a book entitled Blind Dates: How to Break the Codes on the Foods You Buy.

This book was written to help consumers understand the codes so they could choose the freshest food products. An article published by the Desert News in 1978 gives you an idea of how it was back then when consumers first began to learn how these codes worked.

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