Best-before dates: Why you need to stop throwing away perfectly good food

Wendy Knowler, consumer expert, said there are three things you need to know about the dates on your groceries:

Picture: EWN

JOHANNESBURG - Ever wondered what would happen if you were to ignore the best-before date on a tub of double cream yoghurt? Many South African consumers are not educated about the dates on their groceries.

Wendy Knowler, consumer expert, said there are three things you need to know about the dates on your groceries:

1. Quality vs safety

Best-before dates: Best-before dates are generally found on store shelves. They include food items such as canned food, rice, cereal, pasta, sauces, coffee and biscuits. These foods are safe to eat well after their best-before dates expire as the date marks on these types of food are more to do with the quality and taste of food and, less about its safety.

Supermarkets and retailers should not sell foods that have reached their best-before date and past its prime at full price.

2. Bin expired meat and dairy

Use-by dates: Highly perishable foods such as meat products and dairy pose a food safety risk if consumed after its use-by date. These types of products must be disposed of after it has reached its use-by dates to avoid the possible threat of food poisoning.

It is illegal to sell or donate perishable foods that are past their use-by date because it carries a health risk for the consumer.

3. Refrigerate immediately after opening

Sell-by dates: Whilst South Africa's food labelling regulations does not mention sell-by dates at all, the practice is used by supermarkets as a date by when food must be removed from the store's fridges and, allows a few days for customers to consume food after purchase, provided that it is safely stored.

Consumers are expected to adhere to storage instructions after opening, to avoid falling ill.

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(Edited by Refilwe Pitjeng)