'Sniff By' Dates

Dr Crippen needn't have bothered with the hyoscine hydrobromide
he used to poison his wife, he could have opened a dodgy
packet of prawns and made her a sandwich.

I AM now, officially, a statistic. The Food Standards Agency reports that one in three of us is gambling with our health by using food past its 'use by' date. I'm afraid I am one of those people, although I am still here to tell the tale.

Obviously, if it smells like a post-mortem, is attempting to crawl out of the fridge on its own or is covered in slime, I give it a wide berth. Other than that, it's fair game - or beef or lamb or pork.

If you have been religiously checking those 'use-by' dates all your life, don't let me persuade you to do otherwise. I don't want to be personally responsible for a virulent outbreak of food-poisoning. But, speaking personally, I rely on my own judgement rather than a date-stamp.

I'm not a 'use-by' person, more of a 'sniff-by' kind of a girl. If it doesn't smell whiffy, it's edible. 

Now it seems my attitude to those dates could be lining me up for some unmentionable gastric illness as I could well be ingesting salmonella, e.coli and listeria along with that squidgy brie smothered on my cracker.

I have a suggestion for the Food Standards Agency. If they want us all to stick to the 'rules', then don't make them so confusing. For there are use-by dates, sell-by dates and best-before dates. It seems the sell-by dates are meaningless and the best-before dates are created by the manufacturer as a suggestion because they want you to eat their products when they are in tip-top condition.

The only one that has any real value is the use-by date - the one I have been studiously ignoring. And even those are flexible up to a point, for manufacturers tend to err on the side of caution. Up to now I have tended to look on those dates more as a challenge.

Cheddar with a blue covering? Cut it off and eat the rest, is my attitude. A packet of custard powder that orders me to use it by January 7, 2017? I'll make that raspberry trifle when I want to and I may not want to for a few more weeks...or years.

I refuse to believe that a tin of beans that is perfectly safe to eat at 11.59pm, suddenly becomes poisonous a minute later. If it were true, Dr Crippen wouldn't have bothered using hyoscine hydrobromide to poison his wife, he would have opened a dodgy packet of prawns and made her a sandwich. In the interests of historical accuracy, Crippen TRIED to poison his wife but gave her too much hyoscine hydrobromide which caused her to go screamingly mad - so he shot her. Oh well…

According to the Food Standards Agency, we in the UK throw away 7 million tonnes of food every year, the majority of which could have been eaten. Wasting food like this costs the average household £470 a year.

As for all of those dates  generally speaking they are not regulated in the way many people believe. The current system misleads consumers to believe they must discard food because it's dangerous to eat when in fact most of the dates are only suggestions.

For now I'm going to continue with my "sniff" method. I haven't poisoned anybody yet. At least, I don't think I have. Which reminds me, I wonder what happened to my old schoolfriend who popped round for a sandwich in 2016? She hasn't been back since.

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  1. As usual, I laughed out loud reading some of these lines. You're so good. ~grin~ I have an unreliable nose, myself. Once upon a time I ate milk covered cereal in the morning only to throw up every mid day. That happened three days in a row. Rotten colleagues wished I was pregnant. But fortunately, no, I just used milk waaay past its prime. Oops. Be safe!

  2. The food police have spoken. I wonder what that means.
    I ferment most of my food as it is easier to digest. Does
    that mean I am already on the list of the food police?

  3. haha....oh my! I am one of those folks. I might go past by a week or so but after that, it is gone. I have had food poisioning before and I don't wish to go that route ever again. On the flip side, I tend to put things in the fridge to eat later and never get to it, then I end up with some very scary science experiments.....