Best-before dates can be a bit of a joke. My own favourite concerns the bottled water that was ‘filtered for 10,000 years’ through a Himalayan glacier. The best-before: six months.
And many readers, consumers and TV presenters have been shocked when I’ve pointed out that supermarkets bin vast quantities of out-of-date food not because they are lazy or immoral, but because it is illegal to sell them even at a discount; in fact even without charge.
“I’m not sure how clever it was for supermarket bosses to admit, post-Horsegate, to bending health and safety rules - even at home”
Adam Leyland, Editor
So, on the one hand, the admission by leading supermarket bosses - in a colourful article in last Saturday’s Times supplement - that they don’t always adhere to sell-by date advice must have come as a bit of a relief to consumers concerned over the chronic levels of food waste.
Morrisons CEO Dalton Philips professed to using his nose to help make a judgement call on certain foodstuffs (“slightly aged beef is much nicer, sell-by dates on cheese are often ridiculous… and the yoghurts I eat are often way past the date”). Asda boss Andy Clarke also admitted to smelling food. “If something is just past its sell-by date, and kept in a cold environment, I’d smell it to test whether to eat it. It if was fish, probably not, but cheese definitely,” he added. And Waitrose MD Mark Price said he often ate “fruit & veg, cheese, meat, sausages a day or two after the use-by dates.”
Hoorah for some honesty! None of this responsible drinking claptrap booze company chiefs go in for.
On the other hand, I’m not sure how clever it was to admit, post-Horsegate, to bending the rules - even at home. As the FSA said in a series of arch tweets, “dangerous levels of #ecoli #salmonella cannot be sniffed out.”
Still, these little vignettes provided a compellingly honest, down-to-earth insight into the shopping habits and domestic realities of these all-powerful bosses.
Price joked: “Five a day? Do you mean glasses of wine?” Most talked compellingly about their love of food and their obsession with shopping.
There were also more serious references to weight gain, alcohol consumption, the strains of family life - even IBS. But most surprising was that Co-op food CEO Steve Murrells wasn’t particularly bothered about buying Fairtrade. Perhaps, with everything else going on at The Co-op, he’s temporarily forgotten what it stands for.