Do older generations understand food safety more than millennials?

Mustard best before date

Image: Graeme Roy/The Canadian Press via CTV news

A recent poll by the Huffington Post and YouGov has reinforced what many of us already know: best before dates are confusing. The poll, which involved 1000 participants and controlled for age and education (as well as other factors), found that one third of all participants believed food was unsafe to eat after its best before date.When the participants were divided by age group, the responses showed that almost half of people under 30 said they understood food freshness labelling, while only 34% of over-65s stated that they had the same confidence. Despite this, under-30s or “millennials” were much more likely to throw out food that has passed its best before date. In fact, 71% of those polled stated they would throw out food past its date, while only 17% of 65+ participants said the same.

This poll indicates that while there is confusion in all age groups, general misunderstanding is more common in younger generations, even though they claim to comprehend food labels.  One possible explanation for this knowledge gap is that younger generations have been raised in a society that is more and more aware, and more wary, of foodborne illness. Government food agencies may be contributing to the fear. Health Canada has reinforced that you should never use your nose, eyes or taste to judge the freshness of food, leading suspicious young cooks to toss perfectly edible food. On the other hand, some experts say that schools have failed to teach basic cooking skills and an understanding of food safety. The younger generation’s grandparents likely had these skills instilled at a young age and along with an understanding of wartime food shortages, are less likely to throw away food.

Millennials tend to waste more food than older generations. Image: Thomas Barwick/Getty Images via The Huffington Post

Whatever the case may be, polls like these are important as they reiterate just how confusing date labels can be. More obvious labelling should be adopted along with educating consumers, of all age groups, on food safety and literacy so we can stop throwing away perfectly delicious food!

Learn more about why the best before date should be scrapped here.



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