Monday 10 August 2009

Food for thought

Environment Minister Hilary Benn today called for a radical rethink on how we consume and produce our food.

This is fair enough. I'm all for sustainability... not just environmentally but the triple bottom line which means socially and economically too.

The perplexing part of the story is that one of the problems is that we (as a nation) just throw away too much food. One of the difficulties (it would appear) is that people pay too much attention to the labelling on food packages. Yes, those little dates stamped all over things... "display until", "best before" and "use by". Apparently there are people who have difficultly distinguishing between these... I always thought that they were self explanatory:
  • display until - there for the retailer... tells them when to take it off the shelf and put it in the sale bin
  • best before - commonly seen on vegetables and the like... in the opinion of the labeller when that food is in its 'prime'
  • use by - mostly seen on meat and dairy - food should be used by this date... sensitive for avoiding e-coli, salmonella, etc.
Easy, isn't it. It makes you wonder how people managed back in the day when they bought their vegetables from a green grocer in brown paper bags and their meat from a butcher wrapped in grease-proof paper. No pesky dates to worry about then, everyone just used their common sense. Still I suppose assuming that in the modern world everyone has a modicum of common sense is opening a whole different can of worms!

I always remember when I was younger rejecting some fruit or vegetable on the basis that the 'best before' date had passed and my father saying to me "It says 'best before' - not poisonous after!".