"Best Before date"
Meaning... This item is best before XXX date... this doesn't mean that the item is BAD AFTER XXX date.
It could simply mean... This item is good after XXX date but not best.
A product is bad when it turns bad. It's not about the date on the packaging. If you leave milk in the open for a whole day, it's likely going to turn bad, regardless of the date on the pack.
"Expiry date" is not the same as "Best before date"
Disclaimer : Ok I'll state it right up front. If you do not know how to assess if a food is bad or not then please do not try and you may probably want to disregard whatever you read from this point forth. I am not responsible for any reader who chooses to ignore the "best before date" on any item and any unfortunate circumstance which may befall him/her if he/she should choose to ignore it.
Let's look at some definitions before we start...
"Best before" dates appear on a wide range of frozen, dried, tinned and other foods. "Best before" dates are about quality, not safety. When the date is passed, it doesn't mean that the food will be harmful, but it might begin to lose its flavour and texture.
Definition of expiration date. 1 : the date after which something (such as a credit card) is no longer in effect. 2 : the date after which a product (such as food or medicine) should not be sold because of an expected decline in quality or effectiveness.
Ok, let's proceed.
To me the wording says it all. Best before...
I understand why manufacturers do it. Cos by putting the date on the pack, they can
1) Sell more. By putting a shorter date, many people tend to think it is bad and throw it out and buy new produce.
2) Putting a date may help them from getting sued. There are a lot of people who do not know how to assess if something is still edible or not. By putting a short date, it's now the individual's risk if they want to consume something after the date.
3) Human psychology. Having a date makes people believe it is fresher and has been "approved" by the manufacturer. Some things just have no best before or expiry. Like bottled water. Water is water, it has been recycled for billions of years. If it is kept in a sterile air tight environment and kept properly, it should be able to last indefinitely.
Same as salt. Salt is just a crystal. It's also sterile cos it causes dehydration due to osmosis, so bacteria can't thrive in a salty environment.
But some people might feel better that there is an expiration/best before date on their food to feel some semblance of safety.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which regulates bottled water as a packaged food has determined that there is no limit to the shelf life of bottled water. The FDA does not require an expiration date for bottled water products.
So let's look at why things go bad. Well, usually it's cos there's an introduction of some foreign element, like bacteria, mold, etc...
Let's take milk for example.
Milk contains sugars, lactose is a sugar, the bacteria consumes the sugars and produce lactic acid, this makes the milk turn sour. Lactic acid is essentially the bacteria's piss after metabolizing the sugars.
The sour milk may curdle due to the lactic acid, cos the acidity causes milk to curdle.
Now, let's look at this in parts.
Can you eat curdled milk? Yes you can. Cheese is curdled milk. If you add lemon/lime to fresh milk, the milk will curdle and you can press it to make paneer cheese. So curdled milk is fine for consumption.
Can you consume lactic acid? Yes you can. If you've eaten yogurt or kimchi, you've consumed lactic acid. That's what's causing the sourness in yogurt and kimchi. However, the bacteria in yogurt and kimchi are supposedly good bacteria which don't cause any harm to most humans. Also, yogurt is semi curdled milk that's why it's thickened. If you've tried making yogurt, you can see the separation of the milk solids and the whey, indicating that the milk is curdling/curdled. So back to the first point, curdled milk is fine to consume.
So where's the problem? Well... it's the bacteria or whatever foreign element.
The sourness of milk doesn't directly cause you to fall ill when you drink it. The sourness of milk is just an indication that there is something in the milk which is probably bacteria, and if you consume that milk which contains bacteria, there's a chance that you may fall ill.
So it's highly recommended that sour milk is discarded.
Back to the topic. So do we really need to throw away milk which is past it's best before date? The answer is no. IF the milk has not turned bad. Have I consumed milk past the best before date? Yes I have. Have I thrown away milk BEFORE the best before date? Yes I have also.
If the milk is bad, then it's bad, regardless of the date. So I think as consumers, we need to learn a bit of common sense and understand how and why things work the way they do.
That's the same reason why we don't buy into all those marketing gimmicks we see. Cos as the frugal community, we know that the world wants us to spend to contribute to GDP. It's not in our best interests so we choose to be frugal and live without paying much attention to marketing gimmicks. We use our own common sense.
For the avoidance of doubt, I do not always consume the products past the best before date, if it is a few days past, I will check if it is fine to consume, IF it is a few months past, then I may just throw it out regardless.
I have consumed, milk, canned food, dried food, freeze dried coffee powder, biscuits, chips, water, packet drinks, bread, probably a lot more.
I DO NOT EAT ROTTING FOOD. Please do not go around and say ERSG eats rotting food. There's a big difference.
Being frugal and logical is one thing, eating rotting food is something entirely different altogether.
If the food is bad, do not consume it, there is a high chance you will fall ill.
If in doubt, throw it out.
If you do not know how to identify if the food is bad, then do not attempt to do what I am doing.
And a side point about food turning bad... it's all about the bacteria right...
Fermentation is also all about the bacteria. Supposedly the good bacteria. In this case, it's to introduce the good bacteria and cultivate them for consumption.
I've made yogurt, one of the easiest things to ferment. If you consume yogurt regularly, it may be good to learn how to do it. It's A LOT cheaper than buying from retail. Just 24 hours and you can get a similar yogurt to whatever you're consuming regularly.
Kimchi... this is a bit troublesome and might not be worth it. Cos we, Singaporeans, don't consume kimchion a regular basis so making them in a large batch isn't really worth it, cos it takes up so much space in the fridge and continues to ferment and get even more sour as time passes and usually we can't eat it fast enough.
Sauerkraut... fermented cabbage, usually found in German restaurants, you can find this at Brozeit or Paulaner when you order their food. My experience with sauerkraut wasn't really good. It didn't really taste nice, but it fermented well enough. I probably used the wrong kind of cabbages.
红槽... hmmm how do I explain this. This is hong zhao, the stuff used to make hong zhao ji, it's this red sauce chicken, usually ladies consume this after pregnancy. It's actually glutinous rice with a mold/yeast added to it to let it ferment. So my mum used it to make 红糟鸡 after the fermentation process.
Bread... bread is also made via fermentation or proofing, yeast is added and the air bubbles is carbon dioxide released by the yeast. Yes, I've proofed my own bread. You know why sourdough is sour? Yes... it's the lactic acid.
I've also made my own master stock. Ok this is pretty unorthodox. Essentially, a master stock is a braising sauce which is used over and over again to braise whatever meat. So I have pot of sauce/stock, which I use to braise different meats and I reuse it for a long period. I've just started this and it's been around for 2 months. The idea is...
The defining characteristic of a master stock from other stocks is that after initial use, it is not discarded or turned into a soup or sauce. Instead, the broth is stored and reused in the future as a stock for more poachings sometimes for up to 100 years. With each use, the poached meats and other ingredients absorb the stock's flavour while imparting their own back into the stock. In this way, over time, flavour accumulates in the stock, making it richer and more complex with each poaching, while subsequent poached meats absorb this flavour and likewise become more flavourful.
So I keep braising my meats in the same sauce supposedly making it more tasty with each braise.
Very important to note the safety aspects of how to store the stock after each use. I'll not go into detail, cos this post isn't about making the stock.
Ok so what am I trying to put across in today's post?
1) Just cos something is past the best before date, doesn't mean it has turned bad
2) Just cos something is sour doesn't mean it has turned bad (kimchi)
3) Just cos something contains bacteria or mold doesn't mean it has turned bad (kimchi, blue cheese)
4) Just cos something is kept for very long doesn't mean it has turned bad (master stock, whiskey)
I think it would be good for consumers to learn more about such things cos somehow, I feel that as time passes, more and more people do not make the effort to understand these things, and more often than not, people just "outsource" the info. So they just rely on the manufacturers to tell them what is the best date to consume the product by. Essentially, pushing the responsibility of knowledge to someone else. And yet, it is in the manufacturer's interest to shorten the best before date so that consumers will purchase more. And that's a conflict of interest.
Cos it's just so easy to just ask someone else to "give me the date" and then no need to think about it very much, no need to take responsibility or make the judgement whether something is fit for consumption or not. And I think, that's just wrong. We're humans with the capacity to learn and we should be capable of making good decisions on what we can eat or what has turned bad.
Disclaimer again : Please do not attempt consuming products which are past the best before date if you are unsure of whether it is fit for consumption. I am not encouraging or recommending it. I am also not discouraging it. It is your own choice. Personally, I find consuming such foods is acceptable on many occasions. This may or may not be acceptable or suitable for you. If you choose to do so, do it at your own risk and use some common sense please. Thank you.
One last thing to remember... ERSG IS NOT EATING ROTTING FOOD!!!
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