BBDs For Politicians And Nuts

Editorial Comment - Chris McKerracher is a columnist for the Pipestone Flyer

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I was going to write about Jim Prentice one last time (I promise) and how I felt cheated he had a $500 “Give Money to the Premier” dinner on his way out the door last week. What irked me so was that he apologized to the PC party for being a colossal failure, instead of apologizing to Albertans for being arrogant in power and a quitter in defeat. His choosing to run away from the train wreck that was the past election speaks volumes and gives those who voted against his party instant validation. I get that perhaps no leader, no matter how smart, attractive or charismatic could have rescued the PC’s from oblivion, even if they were handing out their own twenties and fifties on the street corners of the province.  I even feel sorry for some of the better MLA’s who were tossed aside with the rest of the dynasty; Gene Zwozdesky, Verlyn Olson and our own Diana McQueen but we are all judged on the company we keep.

Instead of politics, however, I want share a surprising situation I encountered recently while buying snacks for work. At a local store, I grabbed a 100g bag of almonds and another of cashews, packaged by a national company with operations in many Canadian cities.

I drooled at the prospect of delicious nuts to provide quick energy during early afternoon when our bodies demand siesta; a practice usually frowned on around our office. Biting that first almond was hugely disappointing, however. They were staler than a Milton Berle joke. (Entire generations be like, “Who?”) Scouring the package revealed no best-before date (BBD), lot number or anything to identify this bag from others from this company, no matter what the vintage.

I was more surprised than angry. When grocery shopping, I’m used to seeing BBDs on everything; even soup and dried foods that last years. I can’t remember the last time I saw food packaging without identifying lot numbers in case of recall, but evidence they exist lay before me.

My workmates were equally perplexed and re-examined the package to ensure I wasn’t missing it. They found no distinguishing marks, either. I did find satisfaction in their failure, though.

I delved into the rules surrounding what needs BBDs (though not while at work, I assure you) and had Google swiftly locate a website with the government dictates regarding these dates and who must use them (www.inspection.gc.ca). The shorthand version is that BBDs are not related to safety but is an assurance of optimal quality, flavour and freshness. Foods are only mandated to have a BBD if they have a shelf life less than 90 days, although many food companies use them for all products no matter what lifespan they have.

Expiry dates, alternatively, are a safety initiative and only used on foods such as baby food, meal replacement liquids and such, that supply the only nutrients a person might get in a day.

Curious why my package of nuts lacked this crucial BBD which consumers need to make an informed  impulse decision at the checkout line, I sent an email to the company.

I received a response the next day from the firm advising me how sorry they were and if I provided my mailing address, they would send me free product to make up for my disappointing experience. I wrote back thanking the person for the response but pointed out I wasn’t really after hush candy but wanted to know why the packaging held no BBD. I also provided my box number. I’m not stupid, after all. Free stuff is free stuff.

The subsequent response advised that it is a concern and they are studying the issue currently. They added the cases which the unmarked individual packs come in, do bear a BBD.

I hope it’s true they are looking at this closely. In this day of nutbars tampering with products, being able to identify a product for recall is essential. There is another overarching concern, however. As a consumer, it is not fair to hide the point at which your product reaches it’s best before date. It may not kill me to eat them but it does kill me to pay 2.29 for a small pack of product that is inedible. It approaches fraud.

We should make it law that all packaged foods must have a BBD that is on every unit that a consumer can buy so they can make an informed choice about the products they buy.

 

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