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Have you ever noticed the “best by date” in your yogurt container before scooping a spoon full to eat? Have you ever pulled out the carton of milk from your fridge to know its “sell by date “ before giving it your kid?
Most of us are always in a hurry while we shop groceries. We do not pay any attention to the numbers and the dates that appear in the canned, boxed or packaged food products. The first step towards food safety is to understand these numbers and dates as they are the yardsticks that certify that we have made the right purchase to ensure good health for our family. Here are few tips to check –
Sell by date – this is the shelf life of the products. This indicates the “last date to sell from the shelf “by a shop keeper. This is a clue to us about the freshness of the product. It means that the product is edible for sometime even past the sell by date but it has lost its highest level of quality.
Best before date – This means that the “quality of the product is best before” this date. This refers to the flavour, taste and texture of the product. For example- yogurt, consumed after the” best before date” will taste more sour, though will be safe to consume. Similarly crisps, whose best before date has expired, will taste less crispy and might give out a bad odour. Best before date is generally mentioned. Else it has to be calculated for the duration specified from the date of manufacturing.
Use by date/ expiry date - Any product that has past the expiry date should simply be thrown into the trash. Safety of the product cannot be guaranteed and consumption of this will cause food poisoning.
LOT number – This number is given by the manufacturer of the product. The products are generally produced in batches or lots. Each batch or a lot is given a unique number. For example – one “lot number” will be assigned to 500 loafs of bread or 100 dozen of cookies while they get manufactured and packed. When there is a problem with a product, the lot number is used by the manufacturer to pull all the products of similar lot number from the shelf.
Storage rules – The factors like temperature, humidity and light can affect the quality of a product, especially when it comes to meat, dairy and other highly perishable products. It is very important to read the storage rules. Incorrect storage of food can cause food spoilage and food poisoning. If product has a "use-by" date, follow that date. If product has a "sell-by" date or no date, cook or freeze the product according to the storage rules or chart given.
“As a chef, I am responsible for the safe preparation and handling of food and hence, it is important for me to be aware and be updated about safe food and good nutrition habits. In the same context, every mother feels equally responsible for her family and child’s food safety” Vikas Khanna , the renowned chef said the aforesaid words during “Right to Keep Food Safe” campaign organised by Tetra Pak , a fantastic initiative for a noble cause. As a mother we all are aware that we play a key role in creating a happy family and there is no doubt that a healthy family is the happy family. If we keep food safety as our prime concern, we will be able to execute all the other responsibilities at ease. So, do not be in hurry, watch out for these dates and numbers before you pick up your groceries.