Sunday, January 8, 2012
HOW IMPORTANT IS THAT "BEST-BY" DATE ON FOOD?
Coming in totally starving, after an exhausting few hours catching up with my garden, I grabbed the first thing that appeared in the meat section of the refrigerator - some leftover deli meat. I tend to avoid it usually, as it's pretty unhealthy. But my son, who was home for the holidays wanted some, and then, as usual, didn't eat it. So I did today - along with my four healthy helpings of steamed vegetables.
Only after I had swallowed the last bite, did it occur to me to look at the date on the package (I had considerable difficulty finding it). Oh...oh. The "best-by" date was December 23 - two weeks ago. (Yes, you are right, I haven't had the energy to clean out my refrigerator, which is still loaded with food). That was definitely not safe eating. The only thing to my credit is that I did cook the meat. I just hope I cooked it enough! By the way, my dog, Gunesh (pictured) got the rest (cooked - but you may notice that he still looks worried).
That mysterious "best-by" date on most of our food - when you can find it and read it - provides useful information. True, it is not a safety date. The date refers to the last day you should be eating the product if you want best quality. But, because freshness is often related to safety, you would be wise to use it as a guide, particularly if you are in a "high risk" group - and, particularly with foods such as deli meat, which are known to often carry Listeria monocytogenes bacteria, which can grow in the refrigerator.
But interpret the date sensibly. Yes, two weeks after the date is definitely too long. But a few days is usually OK. Remember that the situation can change if the product has been opened or if it hasn't been stored properly, or, if you left the food in a hot car too long when you bought it. There have been instances when I threw out a food before that date, because it looked or smelt as though it was no longer fresh. And, yes, there are days like today, when I completely forgot to look at the date......
To your good health,