Given a choice, it’s fair to assume most of us prefer clarity over ambiguity.
That’s why a story which appeared on page A5 of the Thursday Daily Journal can be viewed as good news.
The story detailed how regulators are urging the nation’s foodmakers to be more precise in how they label their products. Currently, many items we buy, such as the basic staples of bread and milk, include the phrases “Best By’’ or “Enjoy Buy’’ to help determine the freshness of the product.
But what exactly do these phrases mean? They invite uncertainty. Does “Best By’’ mean your morning English muffin still is edible but not as tasty after the date listed has passed? Is the milk less enjoyable but still drinkable after the “Enjoy By’’ date has come and gone?
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently recommended companies use “Best If Used By” to describe the shelf life of the product. We agree with the FDA. There is no gray area in this phrase. If the date listed has passed, discard the item.
Perhaps it’s a case of overregulation in general, as some simple steps followed for decades still make sense. The smell test remains a good gauge to determine the usefulness of milk. Open the container and take a whiff. If the odor is unpleasant, the product should be deemed unusable.
The same concept applies to bread. Open the package and touch the product. If it’s still soft, it’s good. If it has hardened, it’s not. The sight of mold is a sure sign it’s no longer edible.
This probably is the simplest approach: When in doubt, throw it out. Spending a few bucks for a replacement item is less costly than food poisoning.