Sofa Analytics # 233. Expiration date – expired and spoiled product?


The link for this material was a photograph shared by a reader of “Sofa Analytics”; it seems that it speaks for itself.

Sofa Analytics # 233. Expiration date - expired and spoiled product?

The instructions in Russian say that you can use the contents of the jar within 5-7 days after opening, but in other languages ​​it is suggested to use the product in 3-4 hours! The difference is palpable, and many conspiracy theories could arise around this.

Let’s try to figure out what is the reason for such striking differences and how they can be described. Why in one country they offer to eat tomato paste in a few hours, while in Russia they leave it for almost a week. Different rules? Other ideas about beauty among buyers?

I’ll start with a simple statement, which will become a revelation for someone – the indicated time does not apply to the expiration date. The expiration date for food is shown on the packaging and is governed by the rules and laws of the country where the product is sold. In one country, the shelf life may be legally limited for a certain category of goods, as a rule, the regulation affects food and takes into account local conditions. Laws are written based on local conditions, in hot countries the shelf life of dairy products is lower than in Russia or Europe. This directly follows from the climate, the need for transportation in hot weather, the likelihood that the goods may deteriorate if stored improperly. But this is not at all a dogma, and it cannot be said that this is so in any country, there are many countries where the shelf life of dairy products is the same as in Russia.

For the manufacturer, the correct indication of the expiration date of the product is an interesting tool for regulating demand. You can specify a shorter shelf life, which will lead to faster turnover on store shelves. The store itself has no right to sell the product after the expiration date, it must remove the product from sale. But this is always a compromise, since your product does not exist in an airless space, it always has competitors who also use expiration dates. And stores are interested in the correct turnover of goods so that the turnover is correct.

But the box with tomatoes says about using it for a couple of hours, you have already bought this product, and the store has nothing to do with it. Why in European countries the manufacturer has established such a period of use after opening? The answer must be sought in user habits, which are very different from those that we see in Russia. Many European users “forget” the purchased food in their refrigerators, and by the time they try to eat them, they already turn into something indigestible. Necessity for inventions is tricky, and many buyers begin to hand over purchased goods to stores, which deteriorated after opening. In the jar with the same tomatoes, about half remains, but it is spoiled, and this is already a reason to return the goods, especially if the packaging says that tomatoes should survive in the refrigerator for 5-7 days.

A short shelf life after opening the package is almost always a fight against consumer extremism, when the manufacturer is faced with frequent requests for the return of damaged goods. And returns are directly related to the fact that the buyer spoiled the goods, not observing the storage conditions. In Russia, this practice is almost not widespread among consumers, they return spoiled food products: they opened a can, saw something wrong and handed it over. No one expects a store to accept a product that has deteriorated after a few days in the refrigerator.

In the above photo, we see the same product, produced according to the same recipe and at the same factory. Taste qualities do not differ in any way, they are the same tomatoes. The difference is in the manufacturer’s approach to mitigate their risks.

Let’s go back to the expiration date, as it can vary dramatically from country to country. Let’s take, for example, a cheese produced somewhere in France on the same production line. Common sense dictates that the expiration date should be the same for every country in the world, but this is not the case. I will make a reservation that it makes sense to supply cheeses from France only in one case, if it is a rather expensive cheese, the basic lines will greatly increase in value due to logistics to other countries, for example, to Russia.

For such food products, logistics begins to play a role, how long the goods are delivered to other countries, by what transport and to which warehouses. The duration of logistics, weather conditions – all these are elements that can negatively affect the life of the product, shorten it. For example, for wine, the temperature is critical below zero degrees or above thirty degrees, while it begins to develop rapidly. In stores, we see, as a rule, an air conditioning system, often just above 20 degrees, which is comfortable for wine.

Sofa Analytics # 233. Expiration date - expired and spoiled product?

Can wine last forever? In theory, probably yes. In practice, the wines that can be collected are predominantly red, and their number of the total produced does not exceed one percent. With age, wine ages, develops. After passing the peak, it loses its taste, and after ten years of storing the bottle, you most likely will not get the pleasure of an inexpensive wine. At the same time, it is impossible to poison yourself with such wine, therefore the shelf life for it is not limited in any way. This is also a gimmick of manufacturers, as it expands the possibilities for selling off the shelf. I often see wines in stores around the world that have passed their peak and were clearly stored in poor conditions, for example, with temperature extremes. It makes no sense to buy such a product, which is often expensive. In Russia, this story can overlap long distances in logistics, hot summers or cold winters. It is almost impossible to find out how wine was stored on the road, you will only learn it by opening the bottle.

How do manufacturers try to play with the expiration date? They look at local laws and try to find a compromise that will suit retail chains and appeal to customers. But almost always this is a period with a margin, so that there is some time left for amendments associated with different storage of food. For example, if a yoghurt has the date 23.07.2020/24.07/XNUMX, this does not mean that on XNUMX/XNUMX/XNUMX it is already irrevocably damaged, most likely it will be alive for another day. But in a week it will not be so (which is also not a fact, but the probability of this is maximum).

In Germany, the Ministry of Agriculture often conducts research on how much food is thrown away by households. Of the 11 million tons of food thrown out in Germany in 2016, 6.7 million tons are households, of which 44% are vegetables, 15% are bakery products. Usually people throw away food that is probably spoiled and they have no doubt about it. Interesting statistics from Italy, where the research was conducted by Coldiretti, the main conclusion is paradoxical – most Italians eat expired food. The paradox is revealed easily and simply, people do not consider these products to be spoiled. They are expired in terms of packaging, but not spoiled! It is impossible to put an equal sign here. And everyone makes a decision based on their ideas about beauty, most close their eyes to the expiration date, many do not even look at it in principle.

Interestingly, people have a completely different approach to drugs, it is believed that they are more dangerous and therefore expired drugs should be thrown away. Many even have the habit of taking apart a home first-aid kit once a year or even less often, checking the expiration date of medicines (each country has its own codes and laws, the same medicine may have different expiration dates, which directly follows from certification, the desire to sell more or less ).

My habits as a shopper are simple, at the grocery store I always look at expiration dates for dairy, meat, convenience foods. I almost never look at pasta, ice cream, ketchup and other spices, especially vegetables or fruits. That is, even with regard to food products, I have a very selective approach to checking expiration dates, this is my consumer experience, which can hardly be called unique.

The shelf life for consumer products is the service life, but this needs to be discussed separately. Tell us in the comments about your consumption habits – are you eating expired products? How many days from the specified date? Do you look at these dates or do you just take it in the store as it is and do not pay attention? Are there people who donate food that you think is spoiled?

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