It is a little embarrassing to admit that 20 years later, I can still feel the hair rising on the back of my neck at the realization that I had accidentally fed my young sons eggs well past their best before date.
(It should be noted, I can’t smell, at all. Something neurological, doctors say. Thus, I can’t use my nose to test the freshness of food.)
Pre-Google (the search engine was founded in 1998, kids), I typed “what will happen if you eat old eggs” into the Excite search.
My head filled with child services knocking on the door as my sons writhed in pain from this spoiled food I fed them.
I once threw out ketchup I had left out overnight on the counter, just in case it was bad.
(I was a bit of an uptight mom in those early years.)
Suffice it to say, one of my big phobias is becoming ill from eating spoiled food. (It comes in third behind a fear of forgetting to wear pants to work or that I will mistakenly drink nail polish remover while I paint my nails.)
But then, concerns both in Squamish and globally about food waste became more prevalent. And I watched the amazing 2014 Vancouver documentary, Just Eat it.
Frankly, at first, I was no better after this education. The overwhelming nature of the problem caused me to shut down, uncertain how any one person could change it.
But eventually, I chilled out.
I won’t bore you with what you already know about why wasting food is bad, but here are some facts I didn’t know.
Expiry dates are different from best before dates. The latter is just as it sounds, a suggestion for maximum quality.
Seventy-five percent of what is thrown out in Canada could have been eaten.
As it breaks down, food waste generates significant greenhouse gas emissions.
The average Canadian household throws away about $1,100 in food every year.
Milk can be drunk one week beyond its best before date — that was a hard one for me to — er — swallow.
Eggs can be used up to three weeks beyond the best before date. Egad!
The big news to me was that it is actually us who are the biggest problem in the whole food chain.
Consumers are responsible for 47 per cent of the food wasted, according to A food loss and waste strategy for Canada by the National Zero Waste Council.
Retail stores are responsible for 10 per cent and hotels and restaurants nine per cent. That shocked me.
So, as I write this, I am drinking coffee with milk in it that is in the autumn of its life — and keeping my anxiety in check. If I can do it, anyone can.
Here are some places to start on your reducing food waste journey: lovefoodhatewaste.ca and www.nzwc.ca are great.
And definitely check out the doc Just Eat it.
You can watch it for free in Canada at www.foodwastemovie.com/.