There are two types of people in the world: those who religiously follow the use-by date on their food, and those who don’t.
Gavin Wren is the latter.
The 44-year-old, who consults organisations on how food production can become more sustainable, has gained more than four million views on TikTok – where he experiments with how far he can stretch the shelf life of his foods.
‘I am shocked by the amount of food that we waste,’ says Gavin, from Forest Gate, London.
While he is not a food safety expert – and often shares experiments that go against government safety advice – he says that he has been ‘absolutely fine’ so far and swears that he has ‘not once’ had any stomach problems.
Albeit, he doesn’t have any underlying health conditions and keeps his food in a regulated fridge.
‘I grew up in a family where if something looked and smelled alright, you would just eat it,’ says Gavin. ‘Maybe that gave me a titanium belly.’
He simply wants to stop food being thrown away when it doesn’t need to be and, with ‘apocalyptic’ food prices a worrying side effect of rising inflation, says this may help Brits make their food go further.
How to make your food last longer #foodpolicy #costofliving
‘The point of the challenges isn’t to shock or gross anyone out, but to show people that food can last far longer than you would expect,’ he says.
On its website the Food Standards Agency (FSA) explains, a best before date is ‘about quality and not safety’, while a use-by date is ‘about safety’ and they advise not to eat, cook or freeze any foods past the use-by date.
The FSA’s head of foodborne disease, Narriman Looch, warned starkly: ‘Never eat food after the use-by date, even if it looks and smells ok, as it could make you very ill.’
But when Gavin ate an egg that was 73 days past its use-by date, despite another in the same batch having gone green, he was fine.
‘I had known for many years that eggs last way longer than their best before date. It is something I found out about 10 years ago,’ he says.
‘To my mind, eggs are a food people are a little bit scared of. I don’t think anyone wants to eat eggs that are off.’
Reply to @snacktime00 Day 88 THE FINALE #eggtok #eggfloatchallenge #eggfloattest #foodwaste
From February until May 2022, Gavin placed two eggs in water everyday after their best before date to see if they would float, which would indicate that they were rotten.
On the 73rd day, one egg floated while the other didn’t.
He says: ‘I opened them to check, and one of the floating eggs had turned into green slime but it didn’t smell, funnily enough.’
But after cracking open the spare egg that was not fully floating and sniffing it, he decided it was ‘perfectly fine’.
‘I fried it and it was delicious,’ he says.
His next experiment saw him eating out of date hummus every day for a fortnight, only stopping when he sent a sample off to a microbiologist who found bacteria in the food and advised him against eating it.
While he did follow her advice, he doesn’t feel the hummus growing bacteria defeated his cause, arguing: ‘I ate it every single day for a fortnight before that and felt fine.’
Reply to @livewastefree GO SEE @tiktok_microbiologist for the results! #foodwaste #foodpolicy #foodsystems
With five years’ experience as a food writer and a Master’s in Food Policy – which he completed in 2018 at the City University of London – Gavin initially began posting on TikTok as a way to show people where food really came from, but it was his experiments that eventually saw him go viral.
‘I was just trying to help people learn where their food was coming from and educate people about food,’ he says.
While Gavin is not advocating for people to risk their health to eat food that is past its best before or use-by date, he is urging people to use their senses – to look at and smell their food before they throw it away.
‘This is how I live my life,’ he says.
Narriman Looch, head of foodborne disease at the FSA, said: ‘Never eat food after the use-by date, even if it looks and smells ok, as it could make you very ill.
‘We know many people are concerned about food affordability and food waste.
‘There are some things you can do to reduce the amount of food you throw away, such as following storage instructions on the packet, checking your fridge before you shop and trying to use up foods that are approaching their use-by date first.
‘To help cut waste, we work with food manufacturers on product storage instructions, best-before and use-by dates.’
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