wolftune wrote:Whizbang wrote: Is there even the beginnings of a science to testing food edibility by testing the ambient air around a particular food item? The current date method is flawed, and possibly even manipulated to encourage more frequent buying (although food is already sush a consumable item, this seems a bit silly), but it is the best we've got. If we just got rid of these dates and told people to use their noses/judgement, there would be all sorts of people coming down with food poisoning. I know I would be a horrible judge of the "goodness" of food, just from sight and smell. So we need to rely on some sort of intelligent system to tell us to maybe avoid the yogurt at the back of the shelf. The FDA and food manufacturers set those dates to avoid sickness and lawsuits.
That not to say anything about the differences between "best by" and "sell by" dates, though. "Sell by" annoys me, a lot.
You really should watch Dive! the film
There's obviously a continuum between perfectly fresh and obviously bad. You can easily learn through sight and smell to recognize when something is fine. Your claim about people using noses/judgment as unreliable is questionable. We evolved to be able to tell things like when food is rotten. We can easily decide to be cautious and give up on anything iffy. Some FDA dates are reasonable and some items really have a strict shelf life, but lots do not. But really, if you want to claim that humans are terrible at identifying good and bad food after some reasonable quick learning — burden is on you to provide evidence. Otherwise, it's just FUD.
I think we should use date as a guide, as part of our information, but we should absolutely not use it as the only deciding factor.
I have a terrible sense of smell. I literally cannot tell if milk is spoiled by smelling it. I'd have to taste it and hope for the best, or have someone else smell it for me. In this regard, dates printed on the package are handy for me so I can have at least an idea if what I'm about to put in my mouth will result in an immediate spit-out or not.
Also, when trying food for the first time, sometimes there is no real way to know what something is supposed to taste or smell like (at least we know it should look the same way we bought it - hoping that what's on the shelf is not already bad, which is possible - but what if it's in an opaque container when we bought it?) For instance, a person who has never encountered bleu cheese in their life might think it's gone bad when it's perfectly fine. Someone who has never had yogurt might think it's normal for it to be kind of sour tasting (I'm not talking greek yogurt here). For new food items, the expiration date at least tells someone that their new food item has a very good chance of being just fine.
I mean heck, I hadn't had a plum in so long and bought one accidentally the other day. I bit into it and thought, "Is that what plums taste like? Maybe it's gone bad. I don't remember plums tasting like this. It's kind of...brown inside. Maybe it's overripe? But it's not THAT squishy. I thought the outside was supposed to be dark purple though. Maybe it's a different kind of plum than I had as a kid...hmm..."
Well, I didn't get sick from it so it must have been fine, but darn if I wasn't confused about it. And fruit doesn't even come with expiration dates.
So no, it's not necessarily easy to tell through sight, smell, and taste if something has gone bad if you have no idea what "good" is supposed to be in the first place. It's even more difficult if one of your senses is shot. Regardless, I get along just fine - the only times I've gotten sick are from eating at restaurants. I may have thrown some food items out too early though, because I just couldn't tell...