Krispy Kreme Doughnut Confectionary, an American doughnut and coffee making company, recently got its outlet in Victoria Island, Lagos shutdown by the Consumer Protection Commission (CPC) over expiry date tampering on its mix and fillings for doughnuts. This can either mean that the company is trying to cut down cost to the detriment of its customers, or they simply got confused by the difference between ‘use by’ and ‘best before’ dates.
Understandably, most people can confuse ‘use by’ with ‘best before’ dates on products. It is important to know the difference, as it helps one stay away from the hospital as a result of food poisoning. Food may contain bacteria and if stored for too long or at the wrong temperature, can cause food poisoning. So, it’s vital to understand the different types of dates and advice on food packaging.
‘Use by’ date
This is used on food that goes off quickly, such as packaged smoked fish, meat products, and ready-prepared salads. It is advisable not to use any food or drink after the end of the ‘use by’ date on the label, even if the item looks and smells good. This is because using it after this date could endanger your health.
For the ‘use by’ date to be a valid guide, one must follow the prescribed storage instructions stated on the package, such as “keep in a refrigerator”. If you don’t follow these instructions, the food will spoil faster, and you may risk food poisoning.
Once food with a ‘use by’ date on it has been opened, you also need to follow any specified storage instructions to preserve it, such as “eat within 3 days of opening”.
Most importantly, if the ‘use by’ date is the following day, then you must use the food by the end of that day, even if the label says, “eat within a week of opening”.
However, if the food can be frozen, its life can be extended beyond the ‘use by’ date. In using such, make sure you follow any instructions on the package, such as “cook from frozen” or “defrost thoroughly before use and use within 24 hours”. After the ‘use by’ date, don’t eat it, cook it or freeze it. The food could be unsafe to eat or drink, even if it has been stored correctly and still looks and smells good.
‘Use by’ dates are the most important dates to consider, as these relate to food safety.
‘Best before’ date
The ‘best before’ date, sometimes shown as BBE, is about quality and not safety. The food will be safe to eat after this date but may not be at its best. Its flavour and texture might not be as good as before the specified BBE date.
‘Best before’ dates, like ‘use by’ dates, also appear on a wide range of frozen, dried, tinned and other foods.
Eggs have shelf lives of 28 days (from date laid to best before date). They must reach the final consumer within 21 days from the date they have been laid. This date is known as the ‘sell-by’ date.
After this date, the quality of the egg will deteriorate. If any salmonella bacteria is present, it could multiply to high levels and make a person ill.
This means that eggs need to be delivered to the consumer at least 7 days before the ‘best before’ date. The consumer then has 7 days to use the eggs at home.
‘Sell by’ dates also known as ‘display until’ dates, are used by retailers often on their shelves, for stock control purposes. These are instructions for shop staff, not for shoppers.
The average Nigerian will not even bother to check these things since they are in the shelves of big grocery shops in highbrow areas. Understanding these two concepts will go a long way in keeping you away from your doctor and save money.