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- Food Law -

Date-marking of food

Many of us like to feel that the food we buy is 'fresh'. However, the term 'fresh' when applied to food has a number of meanings. How many of us realize when we see or hear the term 'farm' fresh eggs that the eggs could be up to 4 weeks old? The quality of the eggs we get on our plates depends not only on when they were laid but also on the conditions under which they were kept after laying.'Dairy' fresh milk may be up to 11 days old before we drink it and again its quality will depend on the conditions under which it was kept. What is really meant by 'fresh fish' when it is sold far from the seal particularly when it may have been frozen after being caught? How should the term 'fresh' be interpreted when applied to bananas or other tropical fruits that are sold in temperate regions? Would you consider bread, still steaming from the oven,'fresh' if you knew that the flour used in its preparation was 12 months old?

It is difficult to define a meaning for 'fresh' that would be suitable for all foods. The time from the production of the food until its consumption is obviously important, but so also is the initial quality of the food or ingredients used in its preparation, and the conditions under which the item is kept until eaten. It is in the interests of both food manufacturers and consumers that food is sold in the best possible condition.

Many packaged foods have some form of date marking to indicate that if consumed within a particular time, the product should not have suffered any significant loss of ‘fresh eating quality' or deteriorated to a point where it is unfit for consumption. Of course, a loss of quality is a subjective judgement, and will reflect not only the time the food has been stored prior to eating but also the temperature and moisture conditions under which the product has been kept. Temperature control is very important in maximizing the life of a food. This is obvious in the case of fruit, vegetables and frozen foods, but is also important with canned and dried foods. The rate of deterioration of canned foods greatly increases above 20°C and these foods should be stored under cool, dry conditions.

See also:

Labelling and the law

Ingredient labelling

Nutrition labelling

What do the different forms of date-marking mean?

Food Facts
- Food Law
- Labelling and the law
- Ingredent labelling
- Nutrition labelling
Date-marking of food
- What do the different forms of date-marking mean?
- Special purpose foods
22: Infomation on a food label
23: Low-joule foods (low energy)
24: Carbohydrate- modified foods
25: Foods containing no added sugar