What do “packaged on,” “sell by” and “best before” dates actually mean? With no national food-dating standard, a patchwork of rules has arisen that will leave even food experts stumped.
“Because consumers cannot understand what factors led to the selection and setting of label dates, often they mistakenly assume that these dates are tied to food safety, whereas in reality their true function is to convey information about freshness and quality grounded in the preferences of consumers themselves and the particular brand protection practices of manufacturers,” states the report titled The resulting confusion is generating enormous food waste.
With a wide network of fish sourcing and purchasing throughout the UK and abroad, we supply over 30 different species of fish.
This problem is especially acute in the seafood industry since products come in a variety of states: frozen, fresh, smoked, cooked, canned and so on. In Canada, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency enforces national dating standards on seafood labels.
Shelf life also varies depending on the fish species, along with other factors like storage temperature and handling. Live shellfish, for example, must indicate date of processing, and either a “best before” date or the date of harvesting.
Hartz, an expert in the Stone Age of northern Europe, sent the pot sherd away for carbon-14 dating and was amazed when the laboratory came back with a date of 5200 BC. This pottery was many hundreds of years older than all the pottery that was previously found in Northern Germany. I remembered that there were dating problems with freshwater fish, which could give misleading ages,“ explained Hartz.
In order to obtain a radiocarbon date, the amount of remaining Carbon-14 atoms in a sample are measured.