Sell-By Dates - The Great Rip-Off
I bought some cheese the other day. It was reduced in price because it was on its sell-by date. When I got it home Our Gert said, “That’s no good; it’s out of date tomorrow.”
How does that work? The bloody stuff had been maturing for two years!
I told her about the time I was a student and had a summer job at Fine Fare – the distribution centre, not the store. I worked in the Cheese Department.
We received cheeses in 40lb blocks, cut them up into small pieces, cellophane-wrapped them and despatched them to the supermarkets. The first job each morning was to scrape off the mould on the outside of each block which had formed as a rotting crust. (We had purpose-designed scrapers for the job which, I expect, are still in use.)
The point is this; my mother and grandmother never needed sell-by dates. They sniffed at it and tasted it; and if it was off they chucked it.
So what exactly is the purpose of the sell-by date? Protagonists (the supermarkets) will tell you that they’re a Health & Safety tool designed to enable them to rigorously defend the nation’s health. They won’t tell you that they love sell-by/best before/used by dates because they love in-built obsolescence. They want you to chuck the stuff so you have to buy some more!
They’re still finding tins of corned beef in the hulls of ships sunk in the Second World War that’s good enough for pet food. There are barrels of eau-de-vie at Remy Martin distillery at Cognac dated 1783. If Tesco had their way they’d have poured them down the sink before the French Revolution.
In any event, I reckon with cheese specifically the stated sell-by date is best interpreted as a "not-worth-eating-before” date.
So that’s it. Can’t stop any longer – I’ve got to get to the supermarkets to buy unsold Christmas puddings for next year before they’ve all gone.