'Best if used by ...'
Why we should worry about freshness datingITHACA, NY – A recent variation of expiration dating is freshness dating. While it may seem like a great idea to let people know how fresh a food or beverage is, new evidence suggests otherwise.
Freshness dating could backfire in big way, according to a forthcoming article in this month's Journal of Food Science. Joint research by Cornell University and the U.S. Army Research Labs in Natick, MA have shown that as a food approaches its freshness "Best if used by" date, people rate the food as less tasty and less healthy.
"Freshness dating tricks both our minds and our tastebuds," said Brian Wansink (Ph.D), Cornell Professor and director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab. A panel of 36 consumers rated yogurts with freshness dates that were set to expire in a month, in a day, yesterday, or a month ago. The day after the yogurts were labeled as having expired, people rated the yogurts as tasting less fresh and even as less healthy. "It doesn't seem to matter how far in the future something is labeled as being fresh, people either code the food in their minds as being 'fresh' or as being 'not fresh.' There's no in-between even though its perfectly safe," according to Alan O. Wright of the U.S. Army Research Labs in Natick, MA.
Freshness dating has been used by marketers to differentiate themselves from competing products. As a product approaches its "best if used by" date, there may be more for a manufacturer to lose than to gain by having decided to use "freshness dating" in the first place.
The study "'Best if Used By . . . ' How Freshness Dating Influences Food Acceptance," is published in this issue of Journal of Food Science. More can be found at www.FoodPsychology.Cornell.edu.
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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