Sunday, September 18, 2011
Did Al Capone invent sell-by dates and was that a good or bad thing?
A flurry in social media about Al Capone pioneering sell-by dates. On milk. It seems Billy Connolly revealed this fact a few days ago on his new Route 66 programme on ITV.
There's a move in the UK to dispense with sell-by dates, and I imagine this is what prompted Billy Connolly to look into the subject. Studies have shown that sell-buy and eat-by dates contribute to the horrendous waste of food in the West.
I used to suspect them to be the invention of corporate lawyers rather than nutritionists. However it seems it was neither, but actually Al Capone in good guy mode.
Here's a story discussing food expiration dates and crediting Capone with introducing them. It’s the website of something called Times News Inc. I can't vouch for it. It says that whilst the Federal government viewed Capone as a gangster, to many people in his adopted city of Chicago, he was a modern-day Robin Hood. He was the first person to open a soup kitchen to feed the poor during the Depression, the article claims. At a time of 25% unemployment, Capone's kitchens served three meals a day to ensure that everyone who had lost a job could get a meal. And he even served the food out himself.
The Time Magazine cover depicting Alphonse “Scarface” Capone was March 24, 1930, and the story was his release from prison under a special Governor’s order.
As to eat-by dates, treat these as a rough guide only. Nature supplied us with noses, we should use them. For more see this story in the London Independent, 16th September. It says supermarkets oppose a new date labelling regime and claim it will increase and not reduce food wastage.