There is so much domestic food waste by consumers of the big three most common items, namely milk, bread and potatoes that retailers are being forced to act on their best before and use by dates especially on milk. I recall a time when there was no expiry dates on milk and the foil caps on the glass bottles would have been pecked open by wily birds looking for a crack of dawn drink.
A fellow called a milkman magically appeared every morning dropping bottles on our doorstep. Before that my father went and got it from the cows directly on our farm, it was raw and full of goodness. There was actually still a cream layer on the bottled milk too which is long gone. So much then for food hygiene back then.
The milk was delivered daily so there was little chance of it ever going off. Today we buy our milk for the week in a big shop and we expect to get a ten day expiry date on it. The problem is when we buy or get near to these dates the panic sets in that if consumed you will fall dead on the floor. A large proportion of the population are like this and I know plenty of them. Hence a third of food bought gets chucked out unnecessarily after all the trouble and cost of producing it for you, never mind to the detriment of the planet too.
Nothing could be further from the truth then. Best before means it is perfectly okay for a few days after as well. Use by is a direct deadline notice especially with meat or fish. Ironically red meat is only getting better as it passes its use before date; some New York restaurants will age their beef for six months or more!
So we are being asked to revert to our best natural genetically programmed over millennia method of detecting if food is gone off. Our nose. Yes we have it inbuilt and nothing beats a sniff to tell if milk is gone off or not. Same goes for meat or fish. If you open a packet of past date chicken you will know about it pretty fast as the honk of gone off meat reaches your nostrils.
With milk for one supermarket brand you are now just going to have to use your nose as the use before date will be no more. It will be you who decides its life span. If your nose fails you then your palate will let you know for sure if it has turned a bit sour. Then your eyes will help too as you may see little white spots floating at the top of your cuppa. You can fish these out and it is actually still safe at this stage. Then of course you can use your gone off milk for making fresh brown bread, it’s a perfect way to use it up.
For bread it is simple, you just keep it in the fridge for a week or freezer even and it lasts for months. A few seconds in a microwave will defrost it or bring it to room temperature. It can also go straight from freezer to toaster so no excuse whatsoever for throwing out bread. If you trim off the green mould it is still okay to eat but the days of the bread bin should be finished.
For potatoes, likewise they should be kept in a fridge, I know they are bulky but you do not have to buy ten kilo bags leaving out the back of the kitchen and then going rotten in the summer heat. You only need this amount if you know you have many mouth to feed or if it is winter then it should be cool enough for them to last in a back hall or shed. A couple of kilos will easily keep for a few weeks in a fridge and just buy what you need for the week anyway.
Climate change is a hot topic right now and food security is right up there for half the world and we in the western first world cannot even manage to keep food from being wasted in our kitchens. I am always astounded as to what I see in domestic bins and what I find when I rummage through professional bins in restaurants when I am trying to find out where all the profits have gone for a business.
One Irish tech company has now got a system with sensor cameras on kitchen bins to capture and calculate what is being thrown out by chefs. We could well do with these at home too. It is high time we got with the programme and treated food with the respect it so deserves.