Understanding this food etiquette could save you thousands


June 14, 2023 | 17:52

It’s the label printed on most of your groceries, and not knowing how to read it correctly could cost you thousands every year.

As supermarket prices continue to climb according to a recent analysis by investment bank UBS, Coles and Woolworths posted a 9.6% annual increase in April (data Coles disputes), consumers are looking for ways to reduce grocery bill and reduce food waste.

Knowing the distinction between an item’s best before and expiration dates is a fairly easy way to achieve both.

Many consumers don’t understand the difference between best before and use by. This confusion leads them to throw away tons of still edible food, University of Tasmania lecturers Louise Grimmer and Nathan Kilah explained in a piece for The Conversation.

Not knowing the difference between the best before and best before labels can lead to a lot of food waste.
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For anyone needing a refresher, the expiration date, according to Woolworths, is the one to watch.

Marked on highly perishable foods, such as ready meals or proteins, an expiration date indicates when a food should be eaten for health and safety reasons.

Always stick to any expiration date, as expired foods can cause harm or illness, including food poisoning, if eaten. Foods past their expiration dates shouldn’t be cooked, frozen or eaten and should be thrown away, the grocery giant said.

Food may smell and look good despite the expiration date, however, the bacteria from food poisoning may still be present. Maintaining a philosophy is better to be safe than sorry.

The expiration date is used to indicate quality rather than safety.
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Marks & Spencer has stopped putting expiration dates on its fresh milk.
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On the other hand, an expiration date found on dry goods, canned goods, and fruits and vegetables is used to indicate quality rather than safety.

It may not be dangerous to eat a food past its expiration date; you may just notice that some of its quality, flavor or texture has been lost, Woolworths said.

As with best-before dates, following food storage instructions ensures that an item retains its quality for as long as possible.

In a bid to incentivize shoppers to stick to the latter date, Marks & Spencer last week became the latest major UK retailer to remove expiration dates from its fresh milk.

After potatoes and bread, milk is the third most wasted food in England, with M&S encouraging customers to embrace the old-fashioned smell test to judge whether their dairy is still drinkable.

The main reason [milk is wasted] he’s not drinking before his expiration date, Catherine David, of sustainability charity Wrap, told The Guardian.

By switching to an expiration date, M&S instantly helps its customers save money and reduce waste by giving them more time to use up the milk they buy.

In Australia, research last year of the Hellmans brand of wraps and mayonnaise found that one in three households waste the equivalent of a full shopping bag of food every week, costing it more than $2,000 a year.

The most trashed items, according to the study, are vegetables (29%), followed by fruit (22%), green leafy vegetables (24%) and baked goods (21%).

Wrap Asia-Pacific chief executive Claire Kneller said Australians waste enough food each year to fill the Melbourne Cricket Ground tenfold.

Half of that happens at the consumption end of the supply chain, where the food is consumed, Kneller said.

Every year, households throw away an average of $2,170 to $2,700 worth of food. But our latest research shows that when shown how much money could be saved by preventing food waste, the majority said it would have been more enterprising.

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