Best before dates

In recent years, there has been a lot made of food waste, and some of this has been attributed to supermarkets putting very conservative “best before” dates on products that result in people throwing perfectly editable food away.

This might be down to a combination of supermarkets protecting themselves from lawsuits if anyone gets food poisoning, and encouraging people to throw food away early so they will buy more. But I don’t know, maybe they have some other reason. Maybe they genuinely believe their best before dates are appropriate. In any case, it’s not important to this post.

As a solution, why don’t we just ban supermarkets putting best before dates on things?

Surely that would solve the problem, forcing people to use their own common sense. You could argue that relying on common sense is an issue, but any common sense people are lacking is almost certainly down to the nanny state situation of having too many best before dates to rely on in the first place. But even if you consider that a problem, which I don’t think it is, it’s pretty easy to work out when bread is past its best.

I often find that, on some occasions, the law works very well as a blunt instrument. Remember when they banned smoking in pubs, and lots of people said there should be lots of complicated rules and exceptions, but instead they just banned everything, and now everyone is much happier because it worked really well? To be clear, I’m not being sarcastic there, that is actually what happened. Clamping is another good example.

Just tell producers they’re not allowed, people use their common sense and food stops getting wasted. Problem solved.




  1. Trevor Prinn says:

    It’s extremely difficult to tell when lamb or chicken is just past the date it is safe to eat. Without a best before date you don’t find out until some hours after eating it.

  2. Norman Ralph says:

    There is a difference between a “Best Before Date” and a “Use By” date. “Use by” dates are there for consumer protection – they are found on items that spoil and become dangerous (like poultry etc) rather than on stuff that just tastes less good (like beans).

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This entry was posted on Monday, July 23rd, 2012 at 9:41 am and is filed under Religion & Politics, Thoughts. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.