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Ignore Expiration Dates

Slate has written a great article about the usefulness and expectations of expiration dates on food and drink.  I have always wondered about how reliable and/or accurate expirations dates truly are.

The fact is that expiration dates mean very little. Food starts to deteriorate from the moment it's harvested, butchered, or processed, but the rate at which it spoils depends less on time than on the conditions under which it's stored. Moisture and warmth are especially detrimental. A package of ground meat, say, will stay fresher longer if placed near the coldest part of a refrigerator (below 40 degrees Fahrenheit), than next to the heat-emitting light bulb. Besides, as University of Minnesota food scientist Ted Labuza explained to me, expiration dates address quality—optimum freshness—rather than safety and are extremely conservative. To account for all manner of consumer, manufacturers imagine how the laziest people with the most undesirable kitchens might store and handle their food, then test their products based on these criteria.

Link - via yahoo

From the Upcoming ueue, submitted by KillerBee.


Not sure what you mean, Sven. People get sick from food mostly because of food-borne illness, not because they eat something that's old. Unless you're drinking sour milk or eating rotten meat or produce (which, if you have a nose, should never happen), you really should be fine.

How long food is good has much more to do with how it's stored than the expiration dates. Eggs, for example, actually keep longer if you store them in a colder part of the fridge- the compartment in the door designed for egg cartons is too warm to keep them very long. Try StillTasty.com to take the guesswork out of how long food is REALLY good for, and to learn how to store it properly. It's incredibly useful.

One of my favorite things is discovering that the carton of milk I bought is still good, a week or two after the expiration date. Pathetic, right? ;)
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I dont think Ive ever had something around long enough to get to the expiration date, at least nothing that spoils like eggs or milk. I used to get a lot of free stuff from a Hostess store because they would throw out stuff that sat on the shelf past its expiration date. I never got sick from expired cupcakes :)
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My grandmother is a firm believer in the fact that expiration dates are just guidelines and that they're mostly a gimmick to get you to throw away perfectly good food. Let me tell you, ranch dressing that is more than two years past its expiration date does NOT taste like ranch dressing. :(
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It's not really an "expiration" date as much as it is a "sell by" date.

I usually throw out the milk jug when the milk smells sour after being poured into a glass (there is always a bit around the jug mouth that makes it impossible to smell just by sniffing the top). I keep eggs for over a month, the older they are the easier they are to cook with. I usually buy them in bulk (waaay cheaper that way) and so they sit on the bottom shelf of the fridge, which in my case is right above the freezer.
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I once bought a package of frozen salmon. My wife cooked it for dinner one night and it was like eating cardboard. There was a coupon in the package for cents off a future purchase. It was dated to expire two years before I bought it. I look at the package and it had a use date of 5 years before ! I bought it to the attention of my grocery store and the food processor. The store gave me a $25 gift card and the food company sent me coupons for two free items. I'd have rather had fresher salmon in the first place.
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Eggs are best for frying when fresh, and best for boiling after you've had them for more than a week. Not because they spoil, but because of what's going on in the egg. I kind of went through an egg phase once...

anyway, I'm extremely conservative about my food. The power of suggestion and all.
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yeah, they are guideline, so don't ignore them. You don't know how long and in what condition some packaged foods were in before getting to the store. Honestly, why take the chance? Even if it's "safe" to eat, isn't something with an earlier date 'fresher', thus tastier, at least?
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