How many of you smiled looking at this photo? I’ll wait! We have all been there, done that. The problem, though, with this method of “is it still good?” is that when you pour from the container there are always a few drops of milk that congeal around the top and after a few days, those drops turn sour, which is what you are sniffing and does not really represent the rest of the milk in the container!
It always amazes me how a simple photo like the one above can jog a memory loose. So, you will hopefully excuse my short digression while I travel down memory lane! Both my brother and I (I’m pretty sure my Dad didn’t do this) had this rather unsanitary habit of opening the fridge and taking a gulp of milk right from the container. And before you start wrinkling your nose and pointing your accusing finger while saying: “Ewwww, gross.” Think back…right! Well, I don’t recollect if it was my brother or myself that got caught in the act by my Mom, but let’s just say that she was not amused. However, one morning I went to the fridge to get some milk for my cereal, and when I undid the cap, I saw red lipstick on the container. To my knowledge neither my brother my Dad nor I were in the habit of painting our lips. “Oh Mom, can you come into the kitchen, you are so busted!”
The real reason for the photo is you! And by you, I mean everyone who looks at this picture and says: “Guilty.” Admit it, we’ve all had something like the following play out at one time or another. You are standing in front of the open fridge having just grabbed the carton of milk. You have a steaming cup of coffee in one hand, the milk in the other and you glance at the date on the carton – June 6, 2022. It is June 8, 2022, so you look at the coffee, then you look at the milk, then you look at the coffee again and the milk again. While you are doing this, one kid is screaming that he/she can’t find their school lunch, the other is screaming because his/her diaper needs changing, and you start thinking, maybe, just maybe…” Yeah, I’m sure it’s okay,” expiry date be damned and in the cup it goes. You know who you are!
Now in the above scenario, “expiry dates” come under the umbrella category of “consumer protection” as opposed to the other category of “consumer awareness,” which includes such things as “best before dates” (“BBD”). I understand, to some degree, the need for expiration dates, milk will eventually go bad, but not necessarily on the day listed, as many of us have no doubt survived putting expired milk in our beverages! But “BBD,” give me a break! For example, the other day I was having a crunchy snack called “Hippeas.”
These are organic chickpea puffs – vegan white cheddar, and I must admit they are pretty delicious. The product is also an example of some very smart marketing and branding if you consider the fact that many people think all vegans are “hippies!” While I was eating them, I flipped the bag over to look at the nutritional information and spotted on the bottom right corner of the bag a white box with the following: Best Before 04/12/23. Now, I was eating them on 9/21/22, so I clearly was in no danger of being poisoned by some chickpea parasite, but it did give me pause. I have no idea when these were manufactured, packaged, or purchased for that matter, but I am fairly certain that if I opened this bag on 04/26/23 and ate the contents, I would still be able to live a full and productive life!
The practice of placing a date on a sealed package of food like this seems to me rather arbitrary. Is this date suggesting that on 04/13/23, one day after the “BBD”, that the contents of the bag will somehow become inedible the very next day? That, of course, is ridiculous. No, what the “BBD” is promising you is that the food will retain its normal wholesomeness, palatability, and nutritional value. Right! So, you open the bag the day after the “BBD”, bite into one of the puffs and go: “Hmmm, these seem to have lost some of their “normal wholesomeness,” and they are certainly not “palatable” anymore, so I guess that means I’m just not going to get any “nutritional value.” Bummer!
I say, live on the wild side. Be a rebel. Drink that expired milk, dare to open a package of puffs after the “BBD,” eat those leftovers that have been in the fridge since…but remember to smell the contents first!
Los Angeles 2022