The Meaning Behind Food Product Dates and How Useful Are They to the Consumer

Except for infant formula and some baby food, product dating is not generally required by U.S. Federal regulations. There is also no universally accepted system used for food dating in the United States. Although dating of some foods is required by more than 20 states, there are areas of the U.S where much of the food supply has some type of date, and other areas where almost no food is dated.

Dates on packaged foods alert the consumer, the store and the manufacturer as to the quality of the food product. These dates are not safety dates and do not automatically mean the product is no longer safe or is spoiled in some way. After the date passes, the product should still be safe if it was handled properly, although the longer you keep it after that date, the greater possibility of spoilage.
If the package does have a date it will most likely have one of the following:

o “Sell-By” date tells the store the last day the product should be offered for sale. You should buy the product before the date expires and only hold it for two or three days beyond this date if it is well refrigerated.

o “Best if Used By (or Before)” and “Best Before End” date is directed at the consumer by the manufacture guaranteeing the best freshness, quality, flavor etc.

o “Use-By” date is directed at the consumer and is the last date recommended for use of the product while at peak quality. The date has been determined by the manufacturer, packer or distributor of the product.

o “Closed or coded dates” are packing numbers used by the manufacturer. These codes, which appear as a series of letters and/or numbers, might refer to the date or time of manufacture. They aren’t meant for the consumer to interpret as “use-by” dates. There is no book that tells how to translate the codes into dates.

o “Packed on” dates are sometimes found on canned and frozen food. This date indicates the packaging date and is generally not useful for the consumer.

o “Expiration” or “Exp” is the last date on which a product should be used – similar to the “Use By” date.

Even though products may still be useable after the date, I still recommend not purchasing or using any food product that has passed its “Use by'” or “Sell by” date. The manufacturer actually does not want you too either. They want you to continue purchasing their product and if you have a bad or less than expected experience then there is a good chance you are not going to buy that product again.

If you must use or consume the product for whatever reason, just examine the food closely, using all your senses in the following order (this is assuming the packaging is still intact and has not been damaged, dented or bloated in any way):

1. Does the product look good or normal? No abnormal colors, growth, fluids or coating of some unusual matter.

2. Does the product smell out of the ordinary or just spoiled?

3. If it passes the first 2 tests, then lastly taste a small portion (assuming the product is not a raw meat, poultry, seafood or other product that requires cooking first). Is there any out of the ordinary flavor or sharp or strong taste that is not normally present?

If any of these out of the ordinary characteristics are present, then by all means dispose of the product in a safe manner – wrapped up tightly for disposal so others will not be able to get to it.

Food Production Still Depends Too Heavily On Oil

Oil and petroleum products play a major part in every aspect of food production from synthetic fertiliser and pesticide production through processing and packaging right to final delivery in the shops.

The industry is one of the biggest users of fossil fuels and therefore is often at the mercy of fluctuations in oil and petrol prices as well as being both energy inefficient and unsustainable as reserves of oil in the world are gradually being depleted.

It is calculated that it takes more than 400 gallons of oil to feed one person for a year in the USA. Approximately a third of this goes to the manufacture of fertilisers, while another fifth is used in farm machinery. Add in the costs of the machinery that processes and packages the food and the transportation costs to the point of sale and these together explain that figure of 400 gallons per person per year.

In terms of energy conversion this food production system means that it takes three calories of energy for every single calorie of edible food produced on average. The difference when this calculation is applied to grain-fed beef is an astonishing 35 calories of energy for every one calorie of beef. Both these figures exclude the additional cost of energy input involved in food processing and transportation.

Those who advocate sustainable and organic farming point out that it is the industrial system of food production that accounts for what is argued to be such an inefficient use of energy.

The chief culprit, they say, is the amount of energy that goes into producing artificial fertilisers and pesticides, derived from such things as nitrogen or natural gas. It is calculated that as much as 40% of the energy that goes into the food production system goes into this part of the process.

It is also argued that the need for these products is precisely because of the structure of the food production system, both meat and vegetables, which have become increasingly produced in concentrated and specific areas of many countries.

Over time, such concentrated activity has depleted the nutrition of the soil, damaged ecosystems and polluted water supplies. There have also been increasing concerns about the long-term effects on human health of the residues of such chemicals in food.

Systems such as integrated pest management, organic farming and the use of more natural, low-chemical agricultural products are part of moving to more sustainable farming methods.

Using natural sources for biopesticides, yield enhancers and biofungicides can protect the land and crops and increase crop yields while leaving little or no residue in the food produced and this is the focus of the research and products being developed by biopesticides developers.

Such low-chem agricultural products are gradually replacing the older generation of artificial fertilisers and pesticides which are being withdrawn or phased out by many governments around the world. However, the process of getting this new, healthier generation of products tested, registered and licensed is both costly and lengthy. The process has also not so far been harmonised across the world and the need to do so is becoming increasingly urgent.

Other measures to reduce the energy inefficiency in food production include buying locally and organically produced food as well as reducing the amount of packaging used. While plainly consumers can take action about what they buy for themselves, they can also pressure the bigger food store chains to source more locally as well as to cut back on packaging.

Copyright (c) 2011 Alison Withers

The Budget Way to Get Organic Food Products

The craze to eat healthy has engulfed many people. They are shocked at the unhealthy life they are leading, they are worried about the frequent illnesses they are afflicted with, and they wonder how they can eat a better diet and lead a healthier life. So what do many of them do? They switch to an organic diet. They make the transition to eating foods that are grown without the help of chemicals. But such kinds of food products are not cheap. They are expensive. When they go to the store and look at the prices another thought strikes them. How can they buy these foods at an inexpensive price? How can they consume organic food and remain healthy on a limited budget?

The first thing to do is to make a budget. One should sit with a pen and paper and make a list of all the fruits, vegetables and juices that they want to buy. When they are making this list, they should first keep in mind that they are looking to eat healthy. So the list should first talk about all the food products that are good for the mind and the body. The money part can be thought about later. Once the list of all the healthy and organic food items have been listed then the next thing to do would be to list all the prices next to them. In case the budget maker is not sure of how much the products cost then they can always go online and look up the prices. A lot of information is available on the Internet and the prices of food products can be ascertained as well.

A lot of organic food items are available at major shopping markets and retail chains. By going online it is possible to not only check if the products are available at the supermarkets, but also what prices they are sold at. There are times when the products are not available immediately, but the retailer gives a date when it will be made available to him by his distributor. The budget maker will then know that on that day he has to visit the supermarket. That will also give him the time that he has to plan his budget, and complete his shopping.

Once he has made a list of all the products and all the prices, the next step the budget maker has to do is to decide which products are expensive and which products are affordable. This is not a question of simply looking at the numbers. One has to look at the value of the item. A healthy item is worth buying even if it is expensive, while another product might not be worth it even if it is cheap. Once this exercise has been completed, the budget maker will get a good idea of how much his organic products will cost.

The next thing the buyer will have to do is to check if the supermarket where he plans to buy these goods offers any discounts. Many stores also offer gift coupons and this helps save the buyer plenty of money. Some of these coupons have a set deadline to them and the buyer needs to avail of this offer before that time limit. The coupons can usually be found during the holiday season, and it is a good time to make bulk purchases.

The other thing that many people do to save cost even more is to grow organic fruits and vegetables themselves. It is not too hard to get the right ingredients from the market and grow tomatoes and potatoes at home without using chemicals. Quite a few such part-time farmers find that they save a lot of money this way. Another useful tip that they offer to save money on organic products is to buy unpackaged foods from bulk sellers. Retailers spend a lot of money on packaging, and many buyers are surprised as to how much lower the cost of unpackaged products are. It is also essential to balance purchases by getting food items that are in season as they will be available in plenty and hence the cost will be significantly lower. By being smart about their purchases, buyers can reduce their cost on organic food items considerably.

Factors You Need to Consider While Introducing a New Food Product

Change is inevitable. It is impossible to progress without making necessary changes. What seems to be good and sufficient for today, may not be adequate for tomorrow. All aspects of our lives, starting from food to clothes, leisure to entertainment, jobs to careers need to be changed at some point of time for making advancements. Designers, providers and manufacturers of every product inevitably fail to meet the expectations of their customers after a certain point of time. Even when the products are absolutely up to the mark, manufacturers need to make changes to cater successfully to the changes in the tastes, preferences and requirements of customers.

Smart manufacturers recognize the significance of making changes and introducing new products in the market. They constantly strive to understand the changing tastes and needs of their customers in order to update their products efficiently. When it comes to our food habits, they keep on changing with the passage of time. The increasing popularity of ready made food products and a variety of junk food has marked a noticeable change in peoples’ food habits in recent times. Increasing work pressure and scarcity of time has led to a decrease in peoples’ tendency to prepare nutritious food and a tendency to opt more and more for ready made and junk foods. These changes in peoples’ lifestyles call for new food products that can successfully cater to their needs and preferences of customers.

When you are introducing a new food product in the market, it is necessary to keep in mind certain important aspects in order to make it a success. Let us discuss some of the significant factors:

  • Innumerable products are introduced in the market every year. The key to success is to make sure that the food product you manufacture must be something new and innovative, which would successfully cater to the requirements of the customers. It must fill an empty space in the market in order to become a success.
  • Make a thorough research to obtain necessary information regarding the local laws related to retail food jobs. The product you introduce in the market must be eligible to pass regulatory standards.
  • It is extremely important to make a thorough research of the market. You must obtain detailed information regarding every aspect related to a successful marketing of your product starting from the packaging to the store where you would sell your product to your target customers. You must know your target customers and their tastes and preferences in order to market your products more efficiently.
  • Make a list of all the necessary aspects including the services, proprietary tools and techniques and materials required to manufacture the new food product and market it to target customers. Considering these important aspects help in knowing the costs involved in the entire process, and also the various ways you can cut down on the costs while still maintaining the standard of the product.

Besides keeping in mind the above mentioned factors, it is also extremely important to take good care of sanitation and the local laws. It is also overly important to plan meticulously and carefully to carry out the entire manufacturing and marketing process efficiently and successfully.