Old Wives' Tales
Radio & TV
Toxin du jour
Claim: You can tell which day a loaf of bread was baked by the color of its plastic twist tag.
Example: [Collected on the Internet, 2001]
Origins: Ring out the bells, and let the banners fly
Most of the bread you'll find on U.S. supermarket shelves arrives housed in plastic wrappers closed by colored twist tags or plastic tabs. The tabs serve a purpose besides aiding in keeping the bread fresh once everyone in the family is diving into the loaf
It's the removal part of the restocking process that's key to understanding why this bit of Internet advice isn't really worth the time it would take to memorize any code. Bread is not kept on the shelf for longer than a couple of days. Indeed, it's those colored twist tags that make this recycling of stock practical
Those tags assist mightily in your never getting stuck with an older loaf, even if you're not much of a bread squeezer. In the absence of the color cues, some of the older product might be overlooked by a harried clerk trying to read one tiny "Best Before" date after another. (By the by, some of these tags actually do have such dates printed on them, and in those cases the date does represent the date the bread is to be removed from the store, not the date it was baked on.) As it is, shoppers should never encounter more than two colors of tags on the shelf at any time for any one brand of bread: that of the most recent delivery and that of the one just before it. This will sometimes work out to being today's and yesterday's bakings, but there will generally be two days a week when no bread is delivered, thus a three-day spread will be represented by the two colors at stores that receive delivery only five times a week instead of
In other words, since you're not going to encounter a loaf that's more than a few days old anyway, there's no earthly reason to mail off the astonishing news to the entire population of your online address book that there's a secret code worked into bread tags. Even without knowing the code, your friends and family are never going to get a stale loaf.
Is the color code quoted in the example applicable to every breadmaker's product? No, because there are different manufacturers out there, and each of them uses its own system
What to do if you're absolutely determined to have only the freshest bread on your table, now that you know there's a code you're set on making use of? Contact the manufacturer of your favorite brand and ask what (if any) color-coded tag system they adhere to and what their delivery schedule to your favorite store is, then let your selection be guided by that.
Barbara "baker's doyenne" Mikkelson
Last updated: 20 February 2007
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