Minister Sutherland @Shopsmart Notsmart
There was an article in the Daily Nation of the 20th.December 2018 captioned Sutherland calls for sanitary lab. The article alluded to the fact that “Shop Smart” seemed to be having problems over the amount of money it was losing when food products had the Best Before Date (BBD) embossed either on canned or film-packed foods. Minister Sutherland alluded to the fact that money could be saved if the products basically,were tested to determine their wholesomeness after the BBD. He also mentioned in paragraph six that :”the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, (DCCA)… we can’t carry that because we may engage in the risk of harming people………..”
All I could do was laugh. Is it not the function of the Supermarket to ensure that products stocked and their movement through the facility are monitored, to facilitate savings? Obviously, products with short moving times should be purchases in larger amounts than those with longer moving times. Surely this is not the job for Minister Sutherland, as was clearly seen in the awkwardness with which he addressed the topic. Surely this a management problem which the management Shop Smart must address. Some Supermarkets have shelves devoted (Popular Discount and Cherish to name a few) to BBD products. The price of the items are reduced and the consumer buys them.
It is also quite obvious that the DCCA does not seem to have a clue about what tests would have to be done to achieved the goals stated by Minister Sutherland. As a matter of fact one must ask oneself if there are persons trained in food science in DCCA.
In 2000, there was a letter published in the Barbados Advocate on the first of November under the caption: “Not such an easy matter” by me; part of which I now reproduce:
The following comments are made from an educational and consumer aspect…….since it is evident that …..needs more exposure in the area of food science and the quality characteristics associated with stored food products. To illustrate what Iam talking about,I will deal with a box of cornflakes. In the fresh state the consumer expects the product to have the following kinesthetics or textural characteristics: crunchiness when chewed in the absence of milk;brittleness when bitten and mashiness when mixed with saliva in the mouth. These characteristics all come under the heading of mouth-feel and are taught as part of the undergraduate program in food science…..Storage test at room temperature and accelerated storage tests at elevated temperatures are conducted to determine the length of time over which the stored food products retain premium quality status.Chemical analyses to determine the levels of ash,sugars,vitamins….Analysis of the head space in canned and film-packed foods are also done to determine if there is any change in flavor or odor and a BBD is then issued. Cornflakes are packed in an inner barrier of wax paper,which is enclosed in a cardboard box. The inner wax barrier reduces the rate at which moisture and oxygen diffuse from the surroundings,through the cardboard and into contact with the flakes themselves.Over a period of time,diffusion of moisture and oxygen affect the texture of the stored flakes which become soft.The consumer will not buy such a product. It is therefore pointless to talk about extending BBD of cornflakes. In the case of canned food products, simple observation of the shape of the can tells one whether or not the contents are wholesome. Whole chapters of food science books under thermal processing of canned foods are devoted to this. In any event, extending BBD means that the nutritional values would have to be checked and since Barbados places no stress on the scientific capabilities (apart from computer science) of its nationals, there is a slim chance of nutritional assessment being done,since a very high level technical ability is needed to do so. I have not addressed perishables (meats, fish and fruits) for self-evident reasons.
Minister Sutherland would better serve the country by dealing with food fraud instead. In a letter to the Barbados Advocate of the 18th. November 2000,captioned : “Food fraud a global occurrence” I outlined the adverse effects of such fraud: from the mixing of red lead to paprika; the addition of mineral oils to olive oils, to the fake antibiotics that cause an increase in antibiotic resistance; changing of labels ,expiry dates and BBD are all par for the course with food fraud. Advanced countries have their hands full dealing with food fraud.
Robert D. Lucas,PH.D.
Certified food scientist (CFS)