Have you ever gone to the kitchen cupboard to pull out a tin of beans or a packet of pasta only to find it went far past its ‘best-before-date’ long ago?
Have you been tempted to sprinkle a little salt to your oven chips, or add a dusting of icing sugar on your hot cross buns despite the date displayed in BOLD suggesting you purchased it before your first-born, who recently left home for university? The truth is, you are perfectly safe to do so.
Tackling the long overdue deep clean of the kitchen cabinets, or forced to forage due to a snow storm of arctic proportions, can lead to the discovery of all sorts of ageing surprises; but what do we really know about what is ‘safe’ and what needs banishing to the bottom of the bin?
Here, food-waste reduction campaigner and Approved Food founder, Dan Cluderay, explains the difference between best-before-dates and use-by-dates and how on the whole, they’re obsolete; as well as talking us through some foods that have stood the test of time and could help to curb your appetite (or maybe not!) should your take-away delivery driver be delayed.
“We’ve all been there, haven’t we?” said Dan, “Stood holding a tin of something, looking at the best-before-date, and wondering ‘should I, would I?’ I am forever talking about that pot of honey in my cupboard that I bought before my boys were born.
“People worry that if something is a year, two years, even ten years, past the date on the label it won’t be safe; but this is where the difference between use-by-dates and best-before-dates really comes in to its own. Best-before-dates are really for the most part, irrelevant.
“Use-by-dates mark the safety of a product; foods such as fresh poultry and dairy have used-by-dates which, if ignored, could leave people at risk of contracting food-borne illnesses such as salmonella.
“Best-before-dates, on the other hand, mark the point at which the manufacturers’ estimate that the optimum quality of the food will begin to deteriorate. Your crisps might be a little soft, but they are perfectly safe to eat.”
According to Dan, who founded leading online grocer Approved Food – which specialises in goods nearing or past their best-before-date in 2008, the most common kitchen cupboard staples that can outlive the family pet include;
- White rice,
- Canned and pickled goods,
- Dried beans and pulses,
- Dried cheese,
- Dried pasta
Dan added: “If, like me you have ever found a 20-year-old bottle of whisky in the back of the cupboard, don’t worry! That will be fine too!”
Here are some of the more unusual foods that have stood the test of time and, whilst you might not want to be the one to volunteer your taste buds, are perfectly safe to eat – either because of the way they have been stored, or the way they have been preserved.
- Tutankhamen’s honey jar – Discovered by Howard Carter in 1922 – 3000 years after it was buried. It didn’t look great, but it was perfectly preserved.
- Surströmming – A Swedish dish of fermented Baltic Sea herring. The process of fermentation takes up to six months and is said to be an acquired taste with such a pungent smell that it is actually in the tenancy agreement of many rented properties that the occupier must not consume the product in the building!
- Century Egg – A Chinese delicacy made from fermenting duck, chicken or quails eggs in a mixture of clay, ash, salt, quicklime and rice hulls for many months, which results in a slimy, dark coloured egg.
- The Queen’s fruitcake – A piece of wedding cake from The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh went up for auction earlier in the year and sold for £500; it was 47 years old and still edible due to its high alcohol and fruit content!
- Pemmican – is a food invented by Native Americans, its lean red meet mixed with fat and berries and dried on an open fire. Somehow the mix of ingredients and method of drying makes pemmican last anywhere from 30 years to indefinitely.
Approved Food stocks food that is nearing or past its best before date, but never past its used-by-date. The company is campaigning for changes in food labelling with the aim to reduce food waste both nationally and internationally.