- The expiration date predicts the quality of the food, not when it will actually go bad.
- Use your senses to determine if food is okay to eat past the expiration date.
- Apps like FoodKeeper can help you figure out when to throw out old food.
- Visit the Insider home page to find out more.
There are two types of people in this world: those who live by the expiration date and those who try to smell.
For those inclined to take risks, the good news is that the date doesn’t always reflect the real state of your food.
Many foods can be eaten in excess of their maximum quality if you know what to look for.
Here’s what you really need to know about expiration dates and how to determine if it’s worth the risk.
What does the word “best” really mean?
“Shelf life” describes when your food will be of the best quality, not when it goes bad, ”said Elizabeth Anderson, director of scientific communications at the Center for Ingredient Safety Research at Michigan State University.
The same goes for “use before” or “best use before” dates. “Sell to” is a message for retailers to know how long to keep an item on the shelves, so it tends to be even further away from when food really goes bad.
The only food that really has a shelf life is infant formula, which contains important nutrients that can change over time. “The formula should be thrown away immediately after its expiration date,” Anderson said.
It passes the odor test
Just because a product isn’t technically expired doesn’t mean it tastes good, Anderson said.
For example, foods frozen at 0 ° F technically never goes bad to the point that it is unsafe to eat. You can eat food burnt in the freezer if you can get rid of the taste and texture, but the USDA recommends throwing away any frozen food that smells rancid.
It’s even more important to use your senses when tasting foods that have been in your refrigerator for a long time.
“If it smells weird, don’t drink it,” Anderson said. Changes in color, texture, and taste can also indicate that it is time to throw away old food.
For example, salad greens will turn slimy, brown, or yellow when spoiled. A rotten smell is a sure sign that your leaves are upside down.
No signs of mold
Mold is also a sure sign that old fruit, bread, or dairy products can be thrown away. “You don’t know what kind of organism it is or if it will cause an upset stomach,” Anderson said.
Mold-infested fruit should go straight to the trash can, she added.
With bread, it can be tempting to throw away the moldy slice and eat the rest. But what looks like a small spot of mildew may have gotten inside. deeper into the loaf than the eye can see…
“Maybe if he’s on the other end of the bag, I would take a chance. But I wouldn’t risk it with my baby, ”Anderson said.
It was kept in a cool, dry place
The storage of food is an important factor in the spoilage process. Keeping food in a cool, dark and dry environment will extend its life compared to food left on the counter in a sunny or humid kitchen.
Anderson recommended using FoodKeeper app Consider how the food is stored when determining the expiration date.
In the app, you can compare the times when food is frozen or refrigerated and stored in the pantry. Eggs, for example last three to five weeks in the refrigerator after the date of purchase.
It can be helpful to label food with the date you bought it or the date when you discard it, Anderson said.
Especially with leftover food, which will last for many years. three or four days in the refrigerator if well wrapped it can give you some peace of mind by setting the date in Sharpie instead of guessing it.