Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Cultural Conundrum #4: Expiration Dates

When I was here two years ago, I would often stop by a little shop and buy some Chips Ahoy! cookies as a periodic indulgence. After a few weeks, however, I glanced at the expiration date and saw that they were expired by many months--maybe 6 or more. I don't remember.

I stopped buying them. Every day I would check to see if they got new ones. One day they did get some new ones...they were just less expired. I worked up a theory in my head: this shop bought them cheap from some bigger store after that store had to get rid of them.

Eventually, the craving got so great that I decided to buy them anyway. I hadn't gotten sick from the first few packages, and they still tasted good.

Since then, however, I have learned a secret. The date printed on food isn't the expiration date. It's the production date. Finding the expiration date is a 3-step process.

Step 1: Find the date on the package:

It says "20091204." So these cookies were packaged on December 04, 2009.

Step 2: Turn the package over and find the length of time they can be consumed after production.

It's really hard to see, but if you look at the middle of the top half you will see the number 12 followed by some Chinese characters. This says "12 months."

Step 3: Subtract today's date by the production date. If that is less than the period of time on the back--in this case 12 months--then it is safe to eat.

I look at the date on everything I buy. Only once have I seen both the production and expiration dates on the front of the package. It was on a box of Orion pies (an American company).

I don't know why they do it like this here. Maybe it is so that lazy customers will still buy their product if it is expired because they won't want to bother finding the information and doing the quick calculation in their head. I have no idea.

But at least I can rest assured that those Chips Ahoy! cookies I bought two years ago were actually good.

1 comment:

  1. It's hard for me to imagine you buying ANYTHING with an expired date on it! haha. Glad you figured out the good news, Sister Agnes.

    Love you and miss you!!