Posts Tagged ‘food contamination’

Doug Rauch

Doug Rauch

When Doug Rauch, the former president of American grocery chain Trader Joe’s, announced earlier this week that he is planning on opening a discount store that carries expired food, the big question many responded with was: “Is it safe?”

Consumers the world over have come to equate products past their expiration dates with food poisoning, a misconception that contributes to 40 percent ­— or $160 billion worth — of America’s food supply being trashed each year, for example. A truly shocking fact that has led to out of date food being distributed by food-banks, not to mention the rapidly growing urban meme of “dumpster diving”.

Prince Charles attends A Showcase Of Scottish Food & Drink. It’s not obvious exactly what magma-like substance burbles in that steam tray, or whether Prince Charles has now ascended to a plane of existence in which he can obtain nourishment via gas molecule absorption in his nostrils – nor why he thinks smelling food after its been cooked will make him any safer – but this photograph does make one thing abundantly evident: His Royal Highness can balance a tea cup like a champion.

“Food-borne illness comes from the contamination of food by salmonella, listeria, and other pathogens,” agriculture and food expert Dana Gunders, told Yahoo.

“They get on the food during production and processing. That’s what leads to people being sick, not the age of the food.”

The simple fact is, many foods will still be OK to eat after their “use by” date has long expired, even meat and milk.

As this study shows, many of us worry unnecessarily.

Harvard Study Finds Food Expiration Labels Misleading

While most people think that food labeling is regulated, in the USA, for example, the Federal Food and Drug Administration oversees only the labeling of baby formula. Everything else is at the discretion of the food producer or seller.Similar discrepancies occur in all major Western countries.

Widespread labeling came about during the 1970s, long after the majority of consumers had transitioned from growing their own food or purchasing food from farms and local shops to buying from large supermarkets.

"What, there's something wrong with your nose? I dunno, I eat anything. I eat other dog's poos. Why are you asking me, for Chrissake?"

“What, there’s something wrong with your nose? I dunno, I eat anything. I eat other dog’s poos. Why are you asking me, for Chrissake?”

“The demand for labels came out of a concern about freshness. They were never meant to be about safety,” says Gunders.

In fact, expiration dates aren’t a guarantee of safety at all, since they were designed to simply indicate peak quality.

There are actually two types of food labels. “Sell by” dates are meant to tell retailers when the manufacturer recommends that they rotate stock. “Use by” or “best by” dates, meanwhile, indicate freshness to the consumer. “For most products, it’s up to the manufacturer,” says Gunders. “Some may use actual lab tests, but that’s pretty rare. They might do consumer taste testing or they might guess according to how competitors are labeling.”

The Wellwhatthisiswhatithink fridge holds a variety of products marked “Best before October 10”. What exactly happens on October 11? Answer, it depends entirely on how long the food has been in the food chain, how well you have refrigerated it, and your personal taste. Many meats intensify in flavour if they are kept after the animal was killed – but that’s not always a bad thing. Indeed, if you’re eating “Aged” beef, for example, you’re actually paying a premium for it. It’s only commonsense that a rump steak a few days after it’s “Use By” date is probably absolutely fine to consume.

When it comes to eating so-called expired food, Gunders and other experts say you can indeed consume many foods past their expiration dates if you utilise eyes, nose, and a healthy serving of common sense.

At the Wellthisiswhatithink culinary school, we lost track of the number of times Grandma Wellthisiswhatithink would grab an item out of the fridge and shove her nose next to it, inhaling deeply. “That’s fine!” she would cry in delight, and fling the item at the cook. I guess if you learned your cooking skills sitting under a sheet of corrugated iron waiting for a bomb from the Dornier flying overhead to cook your schnitzel permanently for you, you learned to make the best of things. Over the years, we cautiously started sniffing uncertainly at stuff ourselves. And you know what? When something’s “off”, it usually stinks. If it doesn’t stink, we eat it. Usually. (If it’s actually gone vaguely green we sometimes chicken out, if you’ll pardon the pun.) We’re all still here.

We drink milk days or weeks after it’s supposed, by the date on it, to have “turned” to yoghurt. One sniff will tell you. Nothing tastes as dreadful as a cup of tea with bad milk in it. You know what? Stop drinking it. But if it tastes OK, chances are you’re OK.

“Smell the food,” agrees food safety expert Ted Labuza, as he told Yahoo. Labuza, who teaches food science and nutrition at the University of Minnesota says the key to ensuring a longer shelf life is controlling the storage temperature and preventing exposure to moisture and oxygen. Before you toss something out, check out this list of just some of the items that will last beyond their expiration dates, if you follow a few simple steps.

Meat. Labuza keeps his refrigerator at between 32 and 34 degrees, lower than the generally recommended 40 degrees. This gives meat a 50 percent longer shelf life, he says. Labuza points out that stores don’t scientifically determine the use-by date of fresh meat, but follow what their competitors are doing.

Milk. Pasteurized milk also lasts 50 percent longer when stored at a lower temperature.

Canned goods. The label generally gives a shelf life of about three years. If you keep cans in a cool place (not above the stove) they will last about seven years. Always discard dented cans. Bottled goods and stuff in jars will also last longer than their best date if kept in a cool place. Speaking collectively, we have one bottle of Alcoholic Clove Oil at home that doubles as both a natural cure for toothache and the base of a superb mulled wine. We think it was opened sometime in the 1950s. Still tastes fine. We confidently expect to pass it on to Wellthisiswhatithink Jnr when she sets up home for herself.

Frozen food. “I never look at the dates, I just eat it,” says Labuza. Freezing kills all of the microbes that cause spoilage, although food will develop ice crystals (freezer burn) if there is an air space inside the packaging. We agree. One big bag of frozen Brussels sprouts will last us about three Christmases.

Dry goods such as crackers and corn chips. If they have a stale texture, crisp them up in a toaster oven. If they smell “barnyard-y” or rancid, the oils have spoiled and it’s best to discard them.

Eggs. Place in a bowl of water. If an egg floats, it’s gone bad, but if it sinks, it’s still edible, even if that expiration date passed you by weeks ago.

Pasta. Keep pasta in clear packaging in a dark, cool place which will increase shelf life and also retain nutrients, including riboflavin, that are light sensitive.

Bread. Keeping bread and other wheat-flour based foods in the freezer and defrosting as you need them dramatically extends shelf life.

Packaged greens. If your lettuce is wilted but not visibly decayed, you can revive it by soaking in ice water for about 10 minutes.

One caveat: Prepared foods and processed meats can pick up pathogens while being produced. Gunders warns that prepared foods such as a deli sandwich or processed meats can harbour listeria that proliferates even when stored in the refrigerator. So use these types of foods quickly and never serve processed meats such as hot dogs or sausages (including those labeled pre-cooked) raw, especially to small children, the elderly, or anyone who has a compromised immune system. The good news: Cooking will kill surface bacteria.

OK. Second caveat: much of this article is reproduced from Yahoo. (Thank you, Yahoo.) We’re reasonably certain you can ascertain which comments have been added by us. If you take the advice herein and die, whether Yahoo’s bits or ours, we disclaim all responsibility for the accuracy of this advice entirely. In a world that requires hot taps to be labelled with warnings such as “Water from this tap may be hot.” we really aren’t in the consumer advice business at all.

So there. And perhaps if we all apply a bit of commonsense, we can stop wasting perfectly good food, too. Because in a world where a child dies from starvation ever three seconds, that really is wrong.

Yuk Factor: 11/10

Oh, yummy. This story highlights one of the most annoying features of modern-day supermarkets. They import foodstuffs from all over the world, pre-packed in hygenically-sealed packs in factories.

As anyone who has ever seen a modern food packaging line will know, opportunities for contamination are often there despite the best efforts of the few people who are around. Just another example of what happens when we take humans out of the process – until the moment of consumption, of course.

Re-blogged from

A couple eating a romantic meal by candlelight reportedly found a five-inch long dead bird in their salad.

James and Jasmine Watson made the grisly find after dishing up a pre-packed baby leaf salad with their steak and chips.

Mr Watson started tucking in before spotting the soggy remains on his plate.

Tesco said the bird was a Blackcap European warbler – usually found in Spain and Italy – and offered the couple £200 compensation.

Sales director Mr Watson, 32, said: ‘I took three mouthfuls and then saw it. My first reaction was why have I got a soggy fishcake on my plate?

‘But then I saw its beak and realised it was a full-size dead bird.

‘We couldn’t believe it. We both got off our stools and stood there in utter amazement for at least two minutes.

‘We only had a few low lights on so we were effectively eating by candlelight.’

The £1.50 salad – marked ‘washed and ready to eat’ on the bag – had been ordered online before being delivered by Tesco.

Mr Watson added he and his wife had gone out for a ‘few drinks’ on a Friday evening before returning home to prepare dinner.

The next morning he went straight to their local branch of Tesco in Yate, South Gloucestershire, and the store manager later visited their home with a bottle of wine and some flowers.

Tesco – which was this week voted Britain’s worst supermarket by customers – has apologised to the couple and offered them a £200 gift card.

But Mr Watson said the offer is insulting and says he has no plans to shop at Tesco again.

‘I would really like someone from Tesco to sit down and explain me how an animal so large got into a bag of salad,’ he said.

‘The magnitude of this was disgraceful and I find the offer of compensation a bit of an insult.’

Tesco said: ‘We were concerned to learn of this issue and have investigated thoroughly with our supplier.’

The store added: ‘We have been in contact with our customer to reassure them how seriously we have taken this matter, and offered them a gesture of goodwill.’

PS The current horsemeat scandal in the EU has produced some wonder jokes. My favourite so far was from my best man, Tony, who sent me “So this guy goes to his GP for a check up, and the GP takes his blood pressure, checks him over, and says “You need to watch what you eat.” So the guy thinks a bit, and decides to take the rest of the day off and go to the races ….”