Mature Cheese.

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The wrapper on a single portion of cheese said "Best before JAN 00 BC". I felt it may be past its prime.

Dear Sir,

I recently had the quite pleasurable experience of a holiday in New Caledonia; it was warm, it was lovely, it was exotic and it was just plain fun.

You may whimper with barely contained envy if you wish.

My letter results from the return leg of the trip, and not from a desire to needlessly gloat as you may suspect. I am curious about the shelf-life of one of your products.

On the return flight, amongst the many bits and bobs that came on my meal tray to keep me occupied, was a Mainland Gouda cheese portion. I ate it and it was fine.

What worried me was the date marking on the cheese: BEST BEFORE JAN 00 BC.

This date has comprehensively passed.

I think. I mean, try and figure out just exactly day of the Christian calendar that is. I tried and my brain is still not functioning properly. (Don't say a word; my kids got there long before you.)

And while I do realise that cheese does improve with age, this fromage would appear to have more age than most.

Have you found a new wonder preservative? Does you cheese come in more age brackets than others - mild, mature, extra mature, prehistoric, antediluvian? Is the 'Keep Refrigerated' designation on the wrapper necessary? Are you off-loading your expired product on the unsuspecting backwaters of Polynesia? Should you be looking more closely at stock rotation?

Yours in a time warp, possibly just warped period,

J. Cosmo Newbery.

They replied "It is with the utmost of delight to inform you that we have not experienced a stock rotation problem with the product, do not have to keep it refrigerated and alas have not found a wonder preservative.

The fact is with all cheese portions manufactured there is a cipher code, relating to the day of packing. i.e. the BC refers to the 23rd. Our poor, unsuspecting production planners obviously did not consider the lateral translation/implications of the letters BC, being shown in this manner".