Jerry Baldwin's post this morning reminds me that the word "fresh" itself is on its way to becoming as devalued and meaningless as "natural" was in the days of organic, when anyone could define it any way they wanted and everyone's standards differed.
Jerry's definition itself is different from other people's. He's exacting. He's earned it. Yet I don't think he goes as far as the home-roasting movement, which insists that coffee isn't worth drinking if you haven't roasted the beans yourself--a messy process that, I decided when writing The Joy of Coffee, was best left to the pros, with plenty of fans and brooms to collect the papery chaff that files everywhere when you roast beans (on surfaces you didn't know you had, and might not discover for months).
Still, it's subjective. Experts I interviewed said beans were best from one to three days out of the roaster. Jerry thinks fresh is right out of the roaster. I throw out coffee beyond ten days out.
And that's just coffee--something that's easy to smell and taste, and won't make you ill if it's old, just feeling that, as Jerry says, some sort of crime has been committed. For other foods the subject is still subjective--but trickier and sometimes dangerous.