Best before: Food lasts longer

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Food generally lasts longer than the best before date

While people die of hunger in many parts of the world, many in this country have no real feeling of hunger. Every year in Germany one person throws an average of 82 kilos of food into the trash. With a total population of 82 million inhabitants, this means around 6,724,000,000 kilos of food a year that end up in waste. A large part of the actually valuable rubbish mountain could be avoided if people do not shop in excess and use food longer than the minimum expiration date on the packaging. Many people often misunderstand the best before date.

Huge amounts of food are disposed of every day
Every year the Germans throw over 6.7 tons of food into household waste. Accordingly, every German throws away about 82 kilograms of food a year. This is the result of a recent study by the University of Stuttgart. The researchers calculated that every person throws away an average of 235 euros almost annually because they no longer eat the food they buy. This results in an astonishing total of around 21.6 billion euros a year that goes to waste in the Federal Republic.

The researchers analyzed why over 50 percent of discarded food could actually be avoided. It is worthwhile to take a closer look "especially with vegetables, fruit, eggs and milk products". Many consumers do not know the difference between the best-before date and the use-by date. For products that are packaged, exceeding the best-before date does not mean that the food is no longer edible. As a rule, packaged food has a long shelf life, it can also be used for longer than the stated best-before date, as explained by Rosemarie Weber from the "Network Household". Given these numbers, education seems to be the best way to reduce mountains of food waste in the future. Because the shelf life of various foods can be extended if the purchase is structured as a whole and hygiene measures are observed.

Proper shopping reduces food waste
Planning plays a major role before every purchase. Waste can be avoided if the purchasing is carried out systematically. Therefore, consumers should carefully consider what they really need before making any purchase. If a cooking recipe is planned, the ingredients should be kept on a list. In this context, it also makes sense to consider which remaining ingredients can be used for a second dish the next day. Because the ingredients for a dish are often too much, they end up in the trash later. Most people are also guided by advertising and buy products that they will not consume at all later.

Good storage makes food last longer
An important aspect is the correct storage of food. To keep vegetables and fruit longer, it should be stored in a dry, cool and dark place. The refrigerator should be cleaned at regular intervals. Meat and sausages in particular must be packed airtight so that possible mold or germs cannot spread.

After preparing food, the work surface must be cleaned after each step. Vegetables and meat should always be prepared on different boards and with different kitchen knives.

Shelf life of meat, eggs and milk products
Special care should always be taken with eggs and dairy products. However, these goods do not have to be disposed of immediately if the date of minimum durability has passed only a short time ago. Hardly anyone knows that, in many cases, yogurts are still edible up to three weeks after the specified date. This also applies to cheeses - especially hard cheeses, which are usually edible for at least two weeks longer. If mold has already formed or the color has changed, these foods should also be disposed of. However, it is still worth taking a look so as not to put food in the waste that is still stable.

Sausage and meat also have a shelf life many times longer than stated. However, consumers should be a little more careful when it comes to sausage and meat products, as bacteria are just there. Raw meat like minced meat should never be stored in the refrigerator for more than a day if it is eaten raw. If the meat has already changed its color, it looks greasy and smells slightly of decay.

Meat and sausage products that are sealed should be checked carefully. If the packaging is bloated, the decomposition process has already started. The date of use is on meat that is packaged. There is a difference to the best before date! The date indicates when the meat should be consumed or prepared at the latest. If the use-by date is exceeded, the meat should in fact no longer be used, as this could result in severe food poisoning, which often results in diarrhea, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting.

Eggs are best stored without the box in which the eggs were bought. Most refrigerators offer special places for eggs, this should also be located there. The reason: there are often germs on the egg boxes. If the eggs are stored in the box in the refrigerator, bacteria or fungi can spread to other foods. In addition, an egg should not be cleaned too thoroughly, since the shell provides natural protection so that pathogens cannot penetrate. Then the eggs with nature conservation keep for about 14 days. If the egg is no longer suitable for consumption, this becomes clear at the latest when cracked open. The eggs then take on a malodorous odor. If the eggs are not broken open, a simple home remedy test will help: put the egg in a bowl of cold water. If the egg sinks, it is fresh. If it floats above, air has formed inside. Then the egg has to be disposed of in the household waste.

Fruit lasts longer than expected
Fruit lasts longer than expected. Even if bananas, pears or apples have already changed color or are slightly mushy in some places, the fruit can still be eaten. Only when the fruit tastes sour or putrid should it no longer be consumed. If oranges are no longer beautiful to look at, juices can still be squeezed out of the fruit. If the skin looks dry from the outside, oranges or tangerines no longer taste good.

Be careful with inflated cans
Canned food has a very long shelf life. If the content of the can is bad, poisonous gases can develop. If the lid of a can appears to be bloated, it should never be opened. Otherwise the toxic gas botulinum toxin soaks, which can cause damage to your health if you breathe in.

All these examples show that food can still be used for a long time, even if the best before date has passed. Precautions when shopping, adequate storage and more care when handling food can financially relieve the household and avoid unnecessary mountains of garbage. (sb)

Read on:
Best before date is misunderstood
Supermarket smoked salmon contaminated with germs

Image: Gerd Altmann /

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  8. Gardajin

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