Good to Know with Wendy Knowler

The truth about best-before dates: You're throwing away perfectly good food

Good to know with Wendy Knowler is a monthly consumer podcast series that gives subscribers insights into the most common mistakes made by consumers in South Africa. If you are in the market for a car, planning your wedding or wondering how to change your travel plans – this series will have something for you. Subscribe so that you don't miss out on the series, here.

Ever wondered what would happen if you were to ignore the best-before date on a tub of double cream yoghurt? Many South African consumers are not educated about the dates on their groceries.

In this episode, Wendy Knowler talks about how the misconception around best-before, use-by and expiry dates are contributing to the unnecessary mountain of edible, wasted food in South Africa – a country where 22% of its households lack adequate access to food.

Chuck or chow? Here are 3 things you need to know about the dates on your groceries:

1. Quality vs safety

Best-before dates: Best-before dates are generally found on store shelves. They include food items such as canned food, rice, cereal, pasta, sauces, coffee and biscuits. These foods are safe to eat well after their best-before dates expire as the date marks on these types of food are more to do with the quality and taste of food and, less about its safety.

Supermarkets and retailers should not sell foods that have reached their best-before date and past its prime at full price.

2. Bin expired meat and dairy

Use-by dates: Highly perishable foods such as meat products and dairy pose a food safety risk if consumed after its use-by date. These types of products must be disposed of after it has reached its use-by dates to avoid the possible threat of food poisoning.

It is illegal to sell or donate perishable foods that are past their use-by date because it carries a health risk for the consumer.

Yoghurt has a relatively long shelf life. It's perfectly okay to eat it, even 2 to 3 weeks beyond its best-before date with no ill effects at all... I did check with several doctors on that one.

Wendy Knowler

3. Refrigerate immediately after opening

Sell-by dates: Whilst South Africa's food labelling regulations does not mention sell-by dates at all, the practice is used by supermarkets as a date by when food must be removed from the store's fridges and, allows a few days for customers to consume food after purchase, provided that it is safely stored.

Consumers are expected to adhere to storage instructions after opening, to avoid falling ill.

Got an idea that you think would make a great podcast? Send an email to consumer@knowler.co.za with Good to know with Wendy Knowler in the subject line followed by your podcast pitch.

For more consumer-related stories, tune in or visit the ConsumerTalk feature page.

ConsumerTalk with Wendy Knowler on Afternoons with Pippa Hudson, Wednesdays between 13.00 – 14.00 on Cape Talk.

Knowler Knows Consumer Talk on The Azania Mosaka Show, weekdays between 13:00 – 15:00 on 702.


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