Best Before Expiry Date

Posted 2010.02.01 19.43 in Computers/Internet/Technology, Pointless Blather by Stephanie

Remember when food and drink had expiry dates on them? Neither do I, but I am certain they did, at one time.

I mean, you hear people talk about it, like you have to drink the milk before it expires.

The thing is, if you look close, there’s no expiry date. Instead there is a “Best Before” date.

I understand the difference, and I sort of understand why. If they said the product expired on a fixed date, and the product went bad before that date, you could sue them (if you were so inclined) for false whatevering. And if the product was still viable after the expiry date, I’m sure someone would want to sue them anyways for trying to convince the public to throw out foodstuffs that were still good, in a conspiratorial effort to make you spend more money blah blah blah.

There are certainly concpiracies revolving around these dates – I’ll cover that in another post however.

So by calling it a Best Before date, they are more or less covered. It isn’t going to specifically go bad on that date. It might, but might not. Maybe it’ll still be good for another week – who knows? All the manufacturer is willing to commit to, is that it will be best if you consume it before that date.

My thing is, what if you have lower standards? Or your budget does not permit you the luxury of disposing of food products that are still acceptable, even if they are no longer at their very best?

I think, to be fair, they need to add more dates. You have your Best Before date, for the picky, wealthy, epicurians among us. Then there should be a Good Before date, which would still be acceptable to the majority of us. Then an Acceptable Before date, which would be for the more hard-core among us, the folks who are willing to accept a little character and wisdom along with our foodstuffs. Then finally a Non-Toxic Before date, which would pretty much be the last gasp before you really did need to toss it out.

The range of dates covered by this system would vary of course by product. Milk might have a mere week between the Best Before and the Acceptable Before dates. The right cut of beef might cover a month between the two, and hard aged cheese might have a six month spread between the best condition and the still-edible condition. I don’t really know, I’m not a scientist (although sometimes I play one in my imagination.)

Now, granted, this is going to start taking up a lot of space on the label. Fortunately, I have a solution to this too!

Smart Labels! The label itself would change, adapting to the conditions. Sensors would go through the label and into the product inside, continually analyzing it. The label would tell you with words and a colour-coded symbol (for the illiterate) that the contents were in top condition and had X number of days remaining in this condition. Then the label would change to a new symbol, saying that the contents were still good, and would be for X more days. Then it would change again, and tell you it’s still edible, and so on. For the visually -impaired, you merely press on the label and it would speak aloud the current condition of the contents.

The possibilities with smart labels is endless and quite exciting in fact. Imagine you’re walking down an aisle in the grocery store, and every little package, box, tin, and bag didn’t just show you the condition of the food, but actually was playing little adverts, and calling out to you, to select them? If you shopped there regularily, the products would even eventually get to know you by name.

“Hey Stephanie! You haven’t bought crackers in a while – I bet you need more Rosemary-Olive Oil Triscuits! Buy me!”

“Hey Stephanie! Lookit me! Yummy yummy Danish blue cheese! Nom nom nom!”

“Stephanie, over here! You need some Chipotle dip! Buy me!”

“Stephanie…. Over here in Produce…. Green Onions! Come get us!”

It will be a revolution in the way we shop for groceries. Well, for some of us anyways. I already hear these plaintive little cries in the grocery store, but someday everyone else will be able to hear them too.

One Comment

  1. R4i SDHC says:

    Plus most products that require a best before stamp are typically so hopped up on preservatives that it won’t matter anyway.

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