we could board a cute little commuter plane from Alliance,
Neb., to Denver, we had to wait out a summer thunderstorm that
blew across the plains. Trying to take my mind off the
possibility that I would miss my connecting flight to
California (I did), I listened to the TSA agent describe the
history of this small airport.
was a troop training base for parachute jumpers during World
War II," he said. "Our chief of police said his mom
worked out here during that time…folding parachutes. Every
once in a while, they’d take her up in a plane, and she’d
have to jump out with one of the parachutes she’d folded.
They called it ‘quality assurance."
kind of quality assurance do we have for the food we eat? I
took a look at the myriad of risk assessment and analyses data
required of food producers by the USDA Food Safety and
Inspection Service (FSIS). They might just prefer to jump out
of an airplane.
and quality are not always the same, however. Dates stamped on
food packages, for example, help determine when a product is
at its best quality, says the FSIS. They are not necessarily
safety dates; a food might still be safe to eat after the date
but the quality might not be as good.
learned that there is no uniform or universally accepted
system used for food dating in the United States. Here are the
ones you may see most often:
tells stores how long to display a product for sale. Buy the
product before this date and either consume, cook or freeze it
immediately, says the USDA.
if Used By (or Before)" indicates a product will have the
best flavor and quality if consumed by this date.
date is the last date recommended for the use of the product
while at peak quality. The date has been determined by the
like waiting out a storm before boarding a plane, we want our
food to be safe as well as high quality. That’s why the old
adage still holds, If in doubt, throw it out.