On Use By Dates

This morning when I went to make my breakfast, I realised the use-by-date on the milk was 11 January. Yesterday. I drank it anyway.

On the whole I have a fairly cavalier approach to use by dates. As long as the date is close and there’s no evidence of funkiness (i.e. no mould and no rancid smell) I’m willing to take my chances. Loaf of bread with a mouldy bit? As long as the rest of it looks alright then play on.

My basic logic is that use-by dates are almost definitely set conservatively. How quickly something goes off must have a huge variance in it and the brand / PR damage of supposedly fresh food turning out to be off on a regular basis would be terrible. The only sensible thing for them to do is build in a buffer zone. The only downside of use-by dates being set too early is people throwing out perfectly good product but from the seller’s side this is actually a good result because it means they have to buy more.

Plus our fridge is set on the colder side of the middle — surely that gives me an extra couple of days.

Of course it depends a bit on the food. Some use-by dates I’m pretty prepared to ignore altogether. I will take a lot of convincing that a pack of Minties is any worse after a year of sitting in the back of the cupboard than it is the day it hit the supermarket shelves.

And some things I’m not even sure why they have use-by dates in the first place. Does sunscreen really go off?

Let me know what you think


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