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A recent variation of expiration dating is freshness dating (i.e., "best if used by"). We investigated how freshness dating influences the taste acceptance of a refrigerated product by recruiting 36 consumers for a taste panel of different yogurts. Each person was given five yogurts to taste.
Each sample was labeled with freshness dating that indicated that it was either 1 month from expiration (June 1), 1 day from expiration (May 1), 1 day past expiration (April 29), or 1 month past expiration (March 31). The fifth sample had no expiration date. The study was scheduled on a specific day (April 30) so that each of the observations was symmetrically balanced (±30 days and ±1 day) yet fell in different months (March, April, May, and June), thus, being salient to consumers. Each individual was given all five items, each having one of the different freshness conditions associated with it. These freshness conditions were rotated across the two yogurts, and their order was systematically rotated among the distracter products. In reality, both yogurt samples were equally fresh and were more than 30 day ahead of their actual expiration date. The participants were asked to rate the degree to which the two target yogurts were acceptable, fresh, safe, helpful, and risky.
We found that as the freshness date nears expiration, there was a decreased acceptance of the food and its healthiness. However, the risk associated with a food and its perceived safety was not influenced by variations in freshness dating. We also found that perceptions of a food's acceptance, healthfulness, freshness and safety decline significantly the day after a food is believed to expire. We conclude that "best if used by" dating influences acceptability and taste perceptions, and that food safety concerns are less of a driver in acceptance—in this study—than is freshness. 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.
Wansink, Brian and Alan O. Wright (2006) 'Best if Used By...' How Freshness Dating Influences Food Acceptance. Journal of Food Science, 71(4), S354–357. doi: 10.1111/j.1750-3841.2006.00011.x