Food is one of the most wasteful forms of consumption in Australia. Just in NSW alone, more than 800,000 tonnes of food is thrown away each year. This has a huge environmental impact because when wasted food is thrown away and breaks down in landfill, it releases greenhouse gases.
One of the contributing factors to wasted food, is that food goes off before the use-by/best-before date. Sometimes this happens because people don't understand the difference between use-by and best-before. So let's get it straight, because by being less wasteful, you can save money and reduce your impact on our environment.
Use-by and best-before dates
'Use-by': foods must be eaten or thrown away by the date
- After this date foods may be unsafe to eat even if they look fine, because the nutrients in the food may become unstable or a build-up of bacteria may occur.
- It is illegal to sell foods after a 'use-by' date.
- Common 'use-by' foods include milk, sliced ham, and shaved meats.
'Best before': foods are still safe to eat after the date as long as they are not damaged, deteriorated or perished
- The 'best before' date simply indicates that the product may lose some of its quality after this date passes
- Foods can be legally sold after a 'best before' date as long as they are not damaged, deteriorated or perished
- You can expect these foods to retain their colour, taste, texture and flavour as long as they are stored correctly
- Common 'best before' foods include canned foods, cereals, biscuits, sauces, chocolate, sugar, flour and frozen foods
Some food packages are labelled with specific instructions, such as 'Refrigerate after opening' or 'Consume within 3 days after opening'. These instructions must be followed to minimise the risk of food poisoning.
Another important thing is storing your food correctly and in the right conditions to keep it safe from spoiling early. Proper storage helps to reduce waste and will save you money too . Always store food as recommended by the manufacturer's instructions (when provided).
Do not buy swollen chilled packages, this indicates bacteria have grown in the food.