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Old 03/31/08, 08:07 PM
Join Date: Dec 2007
Location: Western North Carolina
Posts: 3,117
Eating "expired" foods?

Yesterday on a news show, I only caught part of it but it was about the high price of food especially breakfast foods. The news said that some people are buying cereal, eggs and milk at what they called "big box" or "chain discount" stores who sell for less because the food is "past its due date" - they said "past its due date" which I take to mean it is expired.

When is it safe to eat "expired" foods and how do you know before you buy it? Common sense would tell you that if you crack open an egg and it stinks, don't eat it and same with milk. But how would you know before you pay for it and get it home?

What foods are safe to eat "expired" but what foods are not? Thanks if anyone knows.
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Old 03/31/08, 08:34 PM
Join Date: Jun 2004
Location: Washington
Posts: 2,832
With milk and yogurt, you generally have about a week after it's pull date before you have to really start questioning it. (the date marked on the package is the pull date, not the date it goes bad) Hard cheese I just keep an eye on. It's usually fine for a good long while.

Meat gets a little more iffy. I don't know of any stores that sell out-dated meat, though.

Cereals, packaged mixes, frozen foods (as long as they've been kept deep frozen), commercially bottled or canned things... Normally you have a few months after the pull date as long as the packaging is intact. You won't know before you buy the things if they're stale or not - but you can really look at the packaging. Make sure any foil doesn't have holes, all the plastic shrinkwraps are intact, the bottles are well sealed, cans are in good shape.
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Old 03/31/08, 08:38 PM
Join Date: Sep 2005
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I let my nose tell me if something is bad no matter what the date. I don't buy out dated foods because I may store them for quite some time but I will eat past dated canned and boxed foods. As Easter I prepared a box of augratin potatoes that had a best by date of 2005. The cheese packet passed the sniff test and the little bit on the finger test. Though I did wait for 6 hours to see if I would get a belly ache before I bothered to make them.
Life isn't like a box of chocolates... it's more like a jar of jalapeno's. What you do today, might burn your butt tomorrow
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Old 03/31/08, 08:51 PM
Join Date: May 2003
Location: North Carolina
Posts: 724
About 8 months ago we shamed a co-worker out of drinking an expired slim fast shake. Everyone freaked out - you're not actually gonna drink that are you???? The top of the can had started to rust. The expiration date _ _ _ 2001 !!!!!!
She ended up throwing it away but knowing her she has the rest of the case in her garage!
“Don't wait for a light to appear at the end of the tunnel, stride down there and light the bloody thing yourself.” - Sara Henderson
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Old 03/31/08, 09:31 PM
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Join Date: Jul 2005
Location: East Tenn.
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I had yogurt from the back of the fridge the other day. Its expiration date was 2003. Smelled fine to me. Ate three of them last few days. i let my nose and eyes tell me. Who hasn't cut the mold off cheese and ate it.
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Old 03/31/08, 09:43 PM
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Originally Posted by TNHermit View Post
I had yogurt from the back of the fridge the other day. Its expiration date was 2003. Smelled fine to me. Ate three of them last few days. i let my nose and eyes tell me. Who hasn't cut the mold off cheese and ate it.
What confuses me is that yogurt is spoiled milk. How does that go bad?

Formerly Known As Galump!
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Old 03/31/08, 10:06 PM
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Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: MO
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I buy "out of date", color changed... meat as often as I can. Less expensive, but more care must be taken in storage and preparing. What I *don't* buy, and am afraid of, is that irridated meat (been exposed to radiation). Scares the devil out of me.

Seems that in the last few years...maybe 3-5 years....I've run across a LOT more spoiled canned goods than in the decades before.....wonder what's going on with that....

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Old 03/31/08, 10:13 PM
A.T. Hagan
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That show was just compounding the misunderstanding the general public has about open dating on foods, especially shelf-stable non-perishable foods.

Those dates aren't "don't eat after this date" dates. They are "best used by" dates that some manufacturers put on their stuff. Some perishables such as fresh meat, dairy products, eggs and so on are required by law to carry these dates simply because they are perishable. Others such as infant formulas and baby foods must carry these dates because infants have critical nutrition needs that may not be met by being fed old, outdated foods. But for pretty much everything else in the United States those 'best used by' dates are put on the packages for the protection of the manufacturers not the consumers.

The reason for this is that some stores are bad about selling stuff that is years old. If you should happen to unknowingly buy a four year old can of peas then open it to find a can of faded mush who are you going to blame? The packer or the grocery store? Most folks will blame the packer even though they were perfectly fine when they were fresh. Sitting on the grocery store shelf for four years is what caused the problem which is why some packers use open dating so that you will know how old the food is when you buy it. This is the reason why some of those discount grocery places can sell so cheap because a fair part of the stuff they are selling is near or past its 'best used by' date.

All that those dates mean is that at the end of the time indicated by the date under typical storage conditions one may begin to notice signs of fading flavor, texture, and/or color. Chances are good some of the more perishable nutrients are beginning to fade as well though some things like protein, carbohydrates, and some minerals are rather durable. Improve the storage conditions and perhaps improve the packaging and you improve the expected shelf-life. Some folks are less discriminating than other folks when it comes to food quality as well so may not be deterred a "less than fresh" can of something than others might be.

So, what foods are safe to eat if "expired"?

Well, there is no clear answer to that because it depends. For fresh perishables such as meats and dairy products if they were well stored to begin with then the nose generally knows. Give it a good sniff. If it's starting to smell off then it is off. Maybe not so much that it can't be salvaged, but then maybe it is. Each individual must judge that for themselves. If you can't judge for yourself whether a carton of milk is spoiled then you either have the taste buds of a buzzard or it's not spoiled enough to worry about. Except for hard cheeses if it's moldy then it's time for it to go. Hard cheese you can cut off the mold, being careful not to get it on the clean parts, then use the cheese.

In the case of non-perishable foods such as canned goods examine the can. Is it bulging at the ends? Leaking? Badly rusted? Sharply dented and been that way for a while? Toss all of those, carefully if it's leaking. DO NOT FEED IT TO YOUR ANIMALS. If the cans are apparently intact then open one up. You'll know as soon as you do if you want to eat it or not. If it's not completely disgusting then it will still be biologically safe to eat meaning that it's not spoiled by bacteria or molds. It may be faded, mushy, and off tasting but if it's not completely gross it will still be safe to eat even if not exactly pleasant to do so.

For boxed stuff like crackers, cereals, mixes, and so on examine the contents carefully. DON'T SHAKE THE BOX. That might serve to conceal any signs of contamination. If you don't see any signs of weevils, discoloration, moisture, or mold then give it a cautious sniff. If it doesn't smell off then it ought to still be safe to use though if it contains baking powder or any high fat ingredients it may not rise well (or at all) and the flavor may be poor. If you really want to store this stuff beyond the use by date I suggest repacking it into long-term storage containers. All of my stuff like this gets vac-sealed in glass canning jars. I don't store baking mixes because the leavening goes bad over long periods of time.

Naturally good storage conditions are vital. Poor conditions shorten the shelf-life of your food.

No matter what you do the food isn't going to get any better than the day you brought it home. Time will eventually have its way with all foods so it's better to keep your stock properly rotated. Even if it won't poison you old food often leaves a lot to be desired in the flavor, color, and texture areas.


Last edited by A.T. Hagan; 04/01/08 at 08:32 AM.
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Old 03/31/08, 10:20 PM
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Join Date: Dec 2005
Location: Roughly where IA, NE and SD come together, on the plains near some loess hills on the Mo River
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oh sheesh, the way they pack foods with preservatives, most stuff will never go bad. ... I just finished a jar of yeast that was 6 yrs old. we kept it in the freezer. (we just started using it a lot) you can always tell if your yeast is bad, lol

but packaged food, lord i've eaten really old packaged food. and really old canned goods. meat i test with my nose, and if i'm not sure, DH's nose. yes i have cut mold off many a chunk of cheese.
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Old 03/31/08, 10:22 PM
Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: Northeastern Oklahoma
Posts: 5,039
Something I've noticed...I buy lots of canned goods at Aldi's, and their "best used by" dates are always considerably shorter than other manufacturers. Most of their vegetables have a date of six months to a year, whereas most others are two years or so.

Does this mean they just have shorter dates because they prefer things fresher? Or are they not using as many preservatives as other companies, so they might go bad sooner? Or have they been sitting in a warehouse somewhere for a year or more before actually getting to my store?

Inquiring minds want to know, lol.
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Old 03/31/08, 10:36 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 825
Milk if it is kept at the proper temperature and sealed is good for 30 days past expiration. Yogurt can be fine for several months. Meat if frozen before expiration can be fine almost indefinately as long as it is eaten within 2 days of thawing. Prepacked frozen convenience foods are fine as long as they are sealed and don't get freezer burn.
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Old 03/31/08, 10:41 PM
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: MN
Posts: 445
Something I've tried to tell others:
If you have a food item, and the expiration date is, say, March 16, 2008, there is no magic that happens here, where on March 16 the food is ok, but on March 17 it is not worthy of being eaten.

I am with the poster who uses the "sniff test" and also, I read an article not too long ago that said that lots of expiration dates have to do with optimum freshness, and/or optimum nutrition, not necessarily spoilage. I.E., a bag of potato chips that's past it's expiration date isn't going to make you sick, but it might not be "crisp" any more either.

Since our budget has gotten much tighter, I have eaten foods that I never would have dreamed of before. I always buy the "almost expired" meats and just throw them in the freezer. I don't even bat an eye if the milk is expired, if it smells ok and there are no lumps, then it's good as far as I'm concerned.

I always try to remember that our ancestors managed to know when food was bad even without expiration dates, so I take them with a grain of salt.
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I, a stranger and afraid
In a world I never made.
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Old 03/31/08, 10:54 PM
Join Date: Sep 2002
Posts: 5,775
I personally do not pay much attention to use by or best by dates on canned goods. You can tell if a can is bad because it will bulge and if you are foolish enough to open it it will spurt all over the kitchen btdt! You need to check older cans for bulged ends, for rust, for leaking. If they are not doing any of those things then they should be fine. Tomato products and very acid foods like pineapple will go bad faster than non-acid foods. I try to find those products in cans that are finished white on the inside. For dried cereals they will usually smell stale if they are over the hill. My practice is "if in doubt throw it out". However, that tends to apply more to leftovers shoved to the back of the fridge than stored foods!
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Old 03/31/08, 11:55 PM
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Originally Posted by calliemoonbeam View Post
Something I've noticed...I buy lots of canned goods at Aldi's, and their "best used by" dates are always considerably shorter than other manufacturers....
My guess is this one:
Originally Posted by calliemoonbeam View Post
. ...been sitting in a warehouse somewhere for a year or more before actually getting to my store? ...
Why do you think the prices are so cheap?

Originally Posted by brreitsma View Post
Milk if it is kept at the proper temperature and sealed is good for 30 days past expiration...
When frozen?? Gosh, I've never had milk still be good at normal refrigerator temperatures for 30 days past expiration. Not even close. However, I have read that milk in cartons will last longer than milk in plastic because the light has a negative impact on storage.
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Old 04/01/08, 02:50 AM
Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: Northeastern Oklahoma
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Thanks Fretti, that's kind of what I figured.

For me, milk is usually good for about a week after the date on the carton. My son insists it's good for longer than that, but it starts to get a little smell right about then, and that's it for me. I was allergic to milk as a child and never really started using it until I was in my 20s, and I still don't just drink a glass of milk, I use it to cook with and for cereal. So he may be right and it's just my persnicketyness!

I have noticed, however, that Borden brand milk lasts way longer than any of the others I've tried, and Warehouse Market brand (a small local store chain) goes bad the quickest. If it lasts one day longer than the printed date you're lucky, it's starting to get a little "chunky" by then. So even though it's 40 cents cheaper I don't buy it because I'm always pushing it on my gallons before they're gone.

As for canned and boxed goods I don't think I've ever actually had to throw any out that I've bought. When my daughter-in-law's father died, she brought me a bunch of canned goods from his cabinets, and some were 10-12 years old. Some were tomato-based products, and they did look and smell bad when I opened them, so those were tossed. But some of the others were fine, and I ate them with no ill effects. I think stuff generally lasts way longer than the "use by" date.
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Old 04/01/08, 06:08 AM
Join Date: May 2003
Location: S.E. Michigan
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This is a good subject. I have for years been trying to convince my fru-fru sister that things dont go instantly bad after the magic date printed on the package. She still calls me and wants my opinion if something is edible. I tell her I cant see it or smell it over the phone, thats usually how I decide if its ok.
I have seen her pitch hamburger that smelled fine but was a bit brown on the outside and still very pink in the middle, milk that expires tomorrow that tastes fine today, bread from the FREEZER that has an expired date!! Oh she drives me nuts.
Yes, she does wonder where all her money goes.
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Old 04/01/08, 07:52 AM
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I have many items that we brought over from my mom's pantry that are kind of old. She always wrote the date she bought them with thick black marker, so it's easy to tell. We have several canned goods from 2004-5 and while some are OK, others taste not so great, like the can. But then I'm not a fan of commercially canned foods anyway.

I've been gradually going through these and deciding what to keep, and some of the quality loss/spoilage is with unexpected things. A couple weeks ago I made fried potatoes and used the seasoned salt I got from mom's - it tasted weird and it took me a while to make the connection to the seasoning being bad; I thought it was the potatoes or oil. But it was dark red in color, not at all the same shade as usual. Blech. Out it goes, along with many other bottles of spices.

Frozen foods, I often end up tossing them before their stamped expiration date because of freezer burn. Like veggies - sometimes there's a hole in the bag and they don't keep well unless I re-package them.

I often buy meat from the sale bin. It might be discolored or the expiration date is just that day - but if I toss it right in the freezer when I get home, it's good for quite some time!

I have seen her pitch hamburger that smelled fine but was a bit brown on the outside and still very pink in the middle, milk that expires tomorrow that tastes fine today, bread from the FREEZER that has an expired date!! Oh she drives me nuts.
Yes, she does wonder where all her money goes.
My mom was like that too. It was appalling the amount of food that got tossed into the trash when I was growing up. She'd say something about how it wasn't worth whatever this cost for us to get sick from it...and I agree, to a point, but sometimes people do this out of laziness because it's easier to toss than take the time to figure out if it's still good or not.
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Old 04/01/08, 08:07 AM
Join Date: Oct 2007
Location: Eastern Shore of Maryland
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I had several of those store bought fruity type yogurts in the fridge. They expired the middle of Feb. and I have been eating them with no problems. Look fine, taste fine, smell fine. I'm pretty sure they are packed with preservatives.
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Old 04/01/08, 08:32 AM
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Originally Posted by galump View Post
What confuses me is that yogurt is spoiled milk. How does that go bad?

Dh is from the middle east where yogurt is bought in bulk without an expiry. Over there, the rule of thumb is if it doesn't have fuzz on it, it's still okay to eat.

Re the OP: I was recently reading about this very subject having only in the past 18 months stocked up on food in great quantities.

Bottom line is that "SHELF LIFE" is not the same as "EXPIRATION DATE", as Alan Hagan so thoroughly explained above. Here's a good Wiki article about the difference:
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Old 04/01/08, 08:36 AM
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Location: near the current river in mo.
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I shop at a store like that all the time its my main shopping place. If anythings ever bad I just take it back on my next return trip,they are good people that run the store,Paula
'It Is A Wise Father Who Knows His Own Child'
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