Past its Sell-by Date

There are times when I despair at my fellow man. The furore about sell-by dates and best before dates is one such. The BBC had a piece about it on the box yesterday and they interviewed some hard of thinking folk. These people seem to believe that if a product is over its sell-by date –  even by one day –  then it has automatically turned to poison and they would throw it away. Hence, of course, the government seeking to bring about guidelines. Guidelines intended to reduce food wastage. However, I suspect that the usual unintended consequences will follow. Frankly, the government is best off keeping well out of it and it is perhaps time for it to take a step back and consider that perhaps the constant propagandising of a dumbed down population might just have a teeny bit to play in all of this.

I mean, if you pick up a bag of potatoes in the supermarket there is a sell-by date. However, I’ve happily pulled spuds form the garden and stored them over winter for the next spring and they didn’t turn to poison. I wonder, sometimes, how our ancestors actually managed to survive this long. We are rapidly de-evolving into an idiocracy.

The UK throws away about £12bn of edible food each year and critics say confusing packaging is partly to blame.

Why is this confusing? Retailers have a sell-by date for stock control. The best before date means what it says on the tin –  or packet. This means it is best consumed before that date, not that it turns to poison at midnight on that date.

New government advice says firms should include only use-by or best-before dates and remove sell-by and display-until labels relating to stock control.

Because, you see, people are too stupid to work out the difference –  they don’t know which date is the one relating to instantaneous poisoning, so they opt for the earlier one just to be sure. Think I’m kidding? I would love to say that I was, but watching the depressing interviews with the intellectually challenged yesterday afternoon, I realise that I’m being somewhat generous.

The British Retail Consortium said a better approach would be to educate people on what the dates mean.

Well, yes, but even an epsilon semi moron should be able to work it out. It isn’t difficult, after all. Caroline Spelman has this to say:

“We want to end the food labelling confusion and make it clear once and for all when food is good and safe to eat,” she said.

Usually well past both the sell-by and best-before dates…


  1. There are times, Longrider, when I watch the general public being interviewed and think to myself that the Romero zombie movies weren’t horror fiction at all, they were allegory.

  2. I agree with Henry Crun. The labelling is perfectly obvious to normal people who are able to read and think, but you’d be amazed how many of your fellow countrymen are illiterate mongs incapable of even a simple task like this.

    Think about that when you vote next time.

  3. “There are times, Longrider, when I watch the general public being interviewed…”

    Try watching quiz shows! The level of general knowledge is frankly appalling, sometimes.

  4. Did all these people have their adenoids removed? Couldn’t apply a sniff test? Or were they incapable of accepting that much responsibility?

  5. Unless you suffer from anosmia, and suffer from a complete absence of taste and smell, most food will tell you when it’s off by either smelling rank or growing strange fur. But then it seems to be impossible to underestimate the stupidity of the masses, as judged by the instructions and warnings to be found on food packets these days. Presumably none of these folk would know how to discover if an egg is fresh before you crack the shell? Maybe ‘egg’ in a shell is an alien thing to some of them….

  6. What would really really help would be if the government sent around qualified dieticians to every household each week to have a look in the fridge and advise people on what needs throwing out, what they should be eating and what to buy next week.

    No, hang it, why doesn’t the government just supply everyone with meals on wheels? That way it can control what we eat, salt content, fat content, 5 & 2, the lot. The selling of food could be made illegal which will hurt Tescos and everybody hates Tescos so that’s a good thing. It could be funded by an 80% tax rate on the rich, with an extra 15% for investment income, everybody is envious of the rich so that’s a good thing and as an added bonus it will send Tracy Enim overseas. Richard Murphy will be happy which is a bit of a bummer but otherwise what’s not to like? All that going to the shops, worrying about what to buy and then coming home, putting the shopping away and worrying about what to cook will be a thing of the past that we’ll laugh at like the Smash potato aliens and we’ll have more free time to watch reality tv and quiz shows.

  7. These people seem to believe that if a product is over its sell-by date – even by one day – then it has automatically turned to poison and they would throw it away.

    Or – just possibly – they think that, in the current climate, if they give the children a slightly-out-of-date yoghurt, the door will immediately be bashed in by the forces of righteousness accompanied by clipboard-waving, child-snatching social services.

    Parents these days have to run a gauntlet of playleaders, teachers and health professionals who have been primed to seek out anything that might be evidence of neglect or worse; the natural defensive response is to become as conformist as possible.

  8. “Because, you see, people are too stupid to work out the difference…”

    True – and our media are also too stupid to realise that this entire ‘discussion’ is irrelevant. Food labelling is an exclusive EU competence and has been for a very long time – nowt we can do about it.

  9. Because, you see, people are too stupid to work out the difference

    Speak for yourself. I see nothing wrong with having a ‘best before’ label. If people are too stupid to know it means – and I suspect that it is only a tiny minority of people who think that the food is unsafe to use after the best before date – then more fool them. No need for anything to change. No story whatsoever and yet another area of government changing regulations that do not need to be changed.

  10. Speak for yourself.

    I’m more than capable of working it out, thanks. However, going by the interviews I witnessed there are those who cannot and government clearly thinks that the population as a whole cannot, which was the point being made.

  11. And these folk have probably had at least 11 years of schooling or possibly 13 years. Unfortunately they haven’t been taught to think for themselves. That’s what spoon feeding teaching and regurgitatory exams do for you. Very sad reflection on society.

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