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Food News


THIS SECTION IS FOR NEWS AND INTERESTING STORIES RELATED TO FOOD, NUTRITION AND FOOD PROCESSING. THEY ARE NOT NECESSARILY RELATED TO KOSHER BUT MAY BE OF INTEREST TO THE KOSHER CONSUMER, MANUFACTURER OR MASHGIACH.

Food expiration dates don’t have much science behind them – a food safety researcher explains another way to know what’s too old to eat

July 21, 2022 - from The Conversation:

"Florida’s outbreak of listeria has so far led to at least one death, 22 hospitalizations and an ice cream recall since January. Humans get sick with listeria infections, or listeriosis, from eating soil-contaminated food, undercooked meat or dairy products that are raw, or unpasteurized. Listeria can cause convulsions, coma, miscarriage and birth defects. And it’s the third leading cause of food poisoning deaths in the U.S.

"Avoiding unseen food hazards is the reason people often check the dates on food packaging. And printed with the month and year is often one of a dizzying array of phrases: “best by,” “use by,” “best if used before,” “best if used by,” “guaranteed fresh until,” “freeze by” and even a “born on” label applied to some beer.

"People think of them as expiration dates, or the date at which a food should go in the trash. But the dates have little to do with when food expires, or becomes less safe to eat. I am a microbiologist and public health researcher, and I have used molecular epidemiology to study the spread of bacteria in food. A more science-based product dating system could make it easier for people to differentiate foods they can safely eat from those that could be hazardous.

"The dates on those food packages, however, are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. Rather, they come from food producers. And they may not be based on food safety science.

"A joint study by the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic and the National Resources Defense Council recommends the elimination of dates aimed at consumers, citing potential confusion and waste. Instead, the research suggests manufacturers and distributors use “production” or “pack” dates, along with “sell-by” dates, aimed at supermarkets and other retailers. The dates would indicate to retailers the amount of time a product will remain at high quality.

"The FDA considers some products “potentially hazardous foods” if they have characteristics that allow microbes to flourish, like moisture and an abundance of nutrients that feed microbes. These foods include chicken, milk and sliced tomatoes, all of which have been linked to serious foodborne outbreaks. But there is currently no difference between the date labeling used on these foods and that used on more stable food items. A plastic bag of precooked, stuffed pasta lies with its label face up, reading 'Use by 22 November' and 'keep refrigerated.'

"But in the absence of a uniform food dating system, consumers could rely on their eyes and noses, deciding to discard the fuzzy bread, green cheese or off-smelling bag of salad. People also might pay close attention to the dates for more perishable foods, like cold cuts, in which microbes grow easily. They can also find guidance at FoodSafety.gov."

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