Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Tasmania Trip (3a) - Of ICA, IGA and Expired Goods

I was complaining the other day about how some supermarkets sell things which are already past its best-before date. I kind of suspected that best-before are different from use-by, and that Yong Chin's theory (best before, not too bad after) might actually be right.

After some random searching and browsing, there was a shocking revelation:

While it's illegal to sell products after its USE-BY date has expired; it's legal to sell things after its BEST-BEFORE date, provided that it doesn't pose health risk to the consumer.

Apparently USE BY dates tend to apply to products where the character of the product will deteriorate over time, or perishable produtcs that present a food safety issue if eaten after a certain period of time. Examples are fresh foods such as meats, dairy products, liquids, some frozen foods etc. Those are the things that you usually find in those "quick sale" section.

Meanwhile, BEST BEFORE dates are applied to more stable products that do not need to be eaten within a certain period of time. Examples are dry food products such as cereals, grains, canned foods, oils and tea. The BEST BEFORE date simply indicates that the product may have lost some of its quality after this date passes; but as long as it's stored properly, it should still be safe to consume.

Lastly, there are some food that don't have any date marking at all, e.g. canned foods such as baked beans, because they are safe and keep their quality for over two years.

So, apparently the IGA that we went to weren't doing anything illegal at all. But still, one year and three months is a bit too long, don't you think?

To Eat or Not to Eat
Wikipedia - Shelf Life
New South Wales Food Label Facts Brochure (PDF)


Eric Fu said...

This only happens in China Merchandise (a store that carries Asian products) in my neighborhood.

WP said...

There's a Sunday market near my place that's selling Christmas chocolates from last year. That means the expiry date is around April 2007. The first time I saw it, I was thinking "wow, how can they sell it for so cheap?" And well, I found out...

Anonymous said...

Testing one two three

N-C Bond said...

Oh cool! Actually very fair enough. Don't forget the world has too many people to feed (which I don't like*), so fairly well-justified for the best-before goods to be sold legally.

youngyew said...

Eric: Is it legal in US to sell stuff past best-before dates?

wp: Haha but then actually right, those things past best-before date are usually still okay even after one month or two. I tried some chocolates like that before. Probably I am just not expert enough in chocolates to find out the difference.

Neptune: While I agree to you, the problem is that sometimes they don't label it clearly as things past best-before date. So in some ways there is a bit of cheating, I feel.