Understanding food dating method
Almost none of the dates stamped so carefully on our food packaging—“best by,” “sell by,” “use by”—indicate safety.They are manufacturer guidelines for when food is at its peak quality, a standard that is more concerned with taste and sales than consumer welfare.The carbon-14 in their bodies breaks down to nitrogen-14 and escapes at the same rate as new carbon-14 is added. CARBON-14 IS DEPLETED (Figure 1c): When an animal dies the carbon-14 continues to break down to nitrogen-14 and escapes, while no new carbon-14 is added.By comparing the surviving amount of carbon-14 to the original amount, scientists can calculate how long ago the animal died.
Open dating on food products is the use of a calendar date to help determine how long a food is at its best quality.If you freeze a perishable item, it doesn’t matter what date is stamped on the product, because foods kept frozen are safe indefinitely.Canned products include a packing code (a series of numbers and/or letters) that enables tracking of a product for interstate commerce. This type of dating allows manufacturers to rotate their stock and to locate products in the event of a recall.If you are ever unsure of the safety of a food product, it is always safer to dispose of the item. Into the trash it must go—except, maybe it shouldn’t.