Food Expiration Dates – When is it Time to Trash What You Bought?
There is a running argument about food expiration dates at my house. One member of my household thinks of them as being a rather stringent measure of food safety. While another member of the family is more likely to take a sniff, a taste, or a swallow before throwing hard-earned money in the form of food in the trash.
That milk is in our office refrigerator. Judging by the bloated plastic container, we can probably let that one go to the trash.
So, what is the deal about the dates we see stamped in some of the hardest-to-find places on the products we buy? Most of them are put there by the manufacturer not as a safety precaution but more so as an enjoyment index.
If you see the words "use by" or "best by" next to the date, that was put there by the manufacturer of the product to give you a better idea of whether the product will be at its best and when it won't. It's less about safety and more about making sure you enjoy the product enough to want to purchase it another time.
These dates typically do not indicate spoilage nor do they convey the message that the food is no longer safe to eat. So, who gets to determine whether food gets eaten or food gets tossed? Go stand in front of your mirror and you'll be looking at them.
There is no hard and fast rule for when food will go bad. Obviously, if you store your purchases properly they will last longer than if you leave them in your car on a hot day. So, how do you know? Come on, you already know that but just in case you're wondering, here's what the Cleveland Clinic suggests you do.
Use your nose, if it smells "off" it probably is. Remember some foods like cheese are supposed to smell off so be cognizant of what "good" needs to smell like.
If you see mold, Nah that should be out of here. Granted not all mold will harm you but you never know what mold might be growing on the outside of your sandwich. So, toss it or give it to your child for a science experiment.
If the product feels different, that could be a sign of spoilage as well. For example, a tomato that's soft and squishy or potato chips that bend and don't break are tell-tale signs that time has taken its toll on your purchases.
Now, if the food in question makes it past your nose, your eyes, and your fingers there is nothing left to do but taste it. Even if it looks, smells, and feels okay if it tastes "off" then you're better off not taking another bite. Unless you just love having gastric distress.
What about gas station hot dogs? Jeez, you just like living dangerously don't you? Or are you just trying to meet a nurse? Instead, I'd go for these tried and true favorites.
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Gallery Credit: Bruce Mikells