Farmer explains why food expiration dates aren’t always useful in viral TikTok

Farmer calls out expiration dates and the food industry on TikTok  (TikTok / @haydenjfox / Stock)
Farmer calls out expiration dates and the food industry on TikTok (TikTok / @haydenjfox / Stock)

A farmer has called out the food industry and expiration dates, explaining that both are a huge cause of food waste.

Hayden Fox, a 23-year-old farmer with more than 551,000 followers on TikTok, recently discussed the topic of expiration dates in a TikTok that has since gone viral.

In the video, Fox began by showing a clip from another person’s TikTok, in which the man said that if a food item has an expiration date, he would not eat the food if it is past the date printed on the product.

The TikTok then transitioned to a video of Fox, who said: “As a farmer, I don’t appreciate you throwing the food out.”

In the clip, Fox then claimed that people are being “lied to by the food companies,” which in turn is making the companies “billions of dollars each year” by adhering to the expiration dates printed on products.

Fox then went on to state that expiration dates “just indicate peak freshness” and that eating the food after is typically fine to do.

“Expiration dates on your package just indicate peak freshness - meaning if you eat the food before this date, sure you’ll get the best taste...but you do know that when you go to farmer’s markets, you buy the seconds,” Fox said. “Meaning the seconds are better. And these food processors shorten the expiry date so you throw it in the garbage and buy more.”

During the TikTok, which has since been viewed more than 1.6m times, Fox also said that expiration dates are a large reason for food waste, with the farmer telling viewers: “I literally work all year long for 60 per cent of this food to be thrown in the garbage.”

The video resonated with people on TikTok, with many revealing that they have been taught to ignore expiration dates and to instead rely on the smell of the food.

“I grew up in a ‘check the date, sniff and taste’ household,” one person commented. “Most times it’s fine.”

Another person said: “I eat it as long as it doesn’t have mould or doesn’t smell bad. I’m not wasting money.”

On its website, the US Department of Agriculture, USDA, also states that food is typically okay to eat if the date printed on the package has passed, as long as there is no “spoilage evident”.

“If the date passes during home storage, a product should still be safe and wholesome if handled properly until the time spoilage is evident,” the USDA states.

Previous studies have also found that confusing labelling leads to unnecessary food waste, with one study finding that “making date labels easier to understand would avoid 398,000 tons of wasted food every year,” while another 2009 study on food waste found that “up to 40 per cent of the US food supply goes uneaten every year,” as noted by HuffPost.

As for why Fox decided to create the video, the farmer, who works on a fourth-generation cash crop farm that produces wheat, oats, soybeans, corn, and hay, told BuzzFeed that he wants to help educate people about the food they purchase and eat.

“As a farmer, we spend countless days laboring away growing the food. Seeing it wasted not only diminishes our work, but is downright wasteful. I studied food and agricultural business at the University of Guelph and almost every problem that could be attributed to food insecurity stemmed from consumers being misinformed,” he said, adding that he also experienced the waste firsthand when his roommate used to throw out food that had passed its expiration date.

According to the USDA, determining whether food is spoiled is easy, as it will typically “develop an off odour, flavour or texture due to naturally occurring spoilage bacteria”.

Fox reiterated similar advice to BuzzFeed, telling the outlet that people can check if their food is actually off by smelling for bitter or “gross smells,” looking for mould or “imperfections” growing on the food and tasting a small amount to“see if there’s anything sour or rotten”.

“Consumers are being tricked into throwing out perfectly good food and it is having negative effects on not only the farmers, but the world as a whole,” he said. “People need to know that expiration dates have become a marketing tactic.”

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