Eating Expired Food

My wife throws away perfectly good food when they reach the expiration date stamped on the package - as if they know that - ding! - it's time to go bad.

Jonathan Maitland of the Daily Mail has a similar problem with his wife, so he decided to embark on a two-week experiment of eating increasingly out-of-date supermarket food in attempt to discover the truth about use-by and best-before dates:

One Asda 'smart price' Chicken Breast Fillet. My wife, realising the meat was six days past its Use-By date, reacted like a vampire seeing a crucifix. I devoured it. Granted, it lacked a little tenderness, but that may have been because I had roasted the living daylights out of it. Ill-effects: none.

Cooking, or the lack of it, is crucial in all this. Microbiologist Doctor Lee Humpheson, who runs a food-testing laboratory, says: 'There is a 100 per cent greater risk from food that hasn't been cooked or prepared properly, even if it is really fresh, than from food which is past its Use-By date, but which has been cooked and prepared properly.'

In other words, wash your hands when handling food, don't use the raw meat knife to spread butter and follow cooking instructions to a 'T'. Then, even though your sausages are, say, three days out of date, you will be fine.

Expiry dates are there for a reason, but, according to Dr David Jukes, a senior lecturer in Food Bioscience at Reading University: 'The longer you leave food after its Use-By date has expired, the more its bacteria will multiply, posing a greater risk to your health.'

But how do manufacturers decide on an expiry date in the first place?

When new products come on the market, tests are run to see at what stage bacteria in the food become harmful. More tests are then carried out, taking into account the effect of variables such as packaging, transportation and storage temperatures.

Dr Jukes says many supermarkets will err on the side of caution when deciding on an expiry date. 'Inevitably, the food industry plays safe. Use-By dates have a degree of safety built in, in order to protect the industry.' So how great is that degree of safety? Quite big, if my experience is anything to go by.

Link (Photo: Les Wilson/ITV)

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I am a firm believer that if it is not smelly, that it is still good. One thing to consider is that when food begins to go "bad" it doesn't get "bad" right away. Remember, the date on many foods doesn't read "expiration date" or "use by," but rather says thing like "sell by" and "best if used by." Many foods, including meats, will first begin to change flavor, and only after that will they begin to go bad. The difference between a fresh hamburger, and one that was made from meat past it's prime, is texture (fixable with bread crumbs and milk), flavor (fixable with seasonings), and of course that you must have it well done.
Eggs last well past their expiration date. I once had eggs last a month past their date. Of course, if you get them from a farmers market they will go bad before the expiration date. My grandma taught me that you can tell if an egg is no good by spinning it. If it slows right away it's still good. If it spins freely then it's either a boiled egg, or a rotten one.

Pork gets slimy and rancid very quickly, so I usually throw that out. Tough to salvage taste when its so nasty.

As stated previously, lots has to do with how things are handled.
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