Foods You Can Eat After The Expiration Date And Some That You Can't

Posted by Editorial Staff in Food On 29th July 2017

You find a box of crackers in your pantry that's past its best before date — do you eat it? While in many cases, expiry dates are important indicators of how safe the food is to consume, but with some foods it's more of a guideline. Here are some foods that are likely good to eat past the expiration date.

#1 Expired Food

You open the fridge, drag out the cottage cheese, check for fur, and if there isn't any, you say, "Honey? Will you sniff this?" This is not, however, the approved method of checking for freshness. The approved way lies in a voluntary system of labeling.

Yes, voluntary. The only items required by federal law to be labeled for expiration are infant formula and some baby foods; some states also mandate pulling dairy from store shelves on the expiration date.

#2 Canned goods.

Highly acidic foods like tomato sauce can keep 18 months or more. Low-acid foods like canned green beans are probably risk-free for up to five years. "You do not want to put cans in a hot place like a crawl space or garage," Peggy VanLaanen, EdD, RD, a professor of food and nutrition at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas, tells WebMD. She suggests keeping canned and dry food at 50 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit in a dry, dark place. Humidity can be a factor in speeded-up deterioration. The FDA notes that taste, aroma, and appearance of food can change rapidly if the air conditioning fails in a home or warehouse. Obviously, cans bulging with bacteria growth should be discarded, no matter what the expiration date!

#3 Cheese

If you think about how cheese is made and aged, you might be more apt to believe it's the kind of food that doesn't always go bad after its expiration date. Even if there is a little mold growing, consuming "expired" cheese is perfectly safe — as long as you cut off the mold. Don't let your precious cheddar go to waste ever again.

#4 Chocolate, rice, pasta and lentils

These foods are all edible years after the expiration date. As they are dry foods, there is no risk of mold. Chocolate is still good two years after the expiration date.

#5 Eggs

It's preferable to keep eggs in the fridge, as this keeps them edible for roughly two weeks. If an egg white is pink or green once you get inside it, then it's time to chuck it out.

If you are not sure, here's how you can check: put the egg in a glass of cold water. If it stays at the bottom, then perfect, it's fresh. If, on the other hand, it floats to the surface, it's past its best and it's time to get rid of it.

#6 Bagged salad

Packets of salad seem to go off so quickly, leaving you with wilted and often slim leaves at the bottom of your fridge.

But don't throw them away too soon - they can be revived with some ice cold water.

They're safe to eat as long as there's no mold - otherwise, they can be dangerous to consume.

#7 Cookies

Biting into a cookie only to find it's gone stale and soft is surely one of lifes most disappointing moments.

But the preservatives in these treats mean they're safe to eat long after the sell-by date has passed - up to two months after in fact.

And there is a way to make them crunchy again. Try popping them in the oven, and they should be crisp in no time.

#8 Butter

This one surprised me. If your butter is going to expire, throw it in the fridge. Thaw and use for baking. Just make sure you use it quickly after thawing and don’t re-freeze. Make sure your butter was unopened before freezing

#9 Bread

The best by date on fresh bread is assuming you're keeping your loaf sitting on the counter. But so long as you don't see mold growing on your grains, it should be okay to eat. If you want to extend the shelf life of your bread, store it in the fridge — it can last for up to two weeks — or keep it in the freezer.

#10 Salad Mixes

Those packages of salad mixes, spinach and arugula are okay to eat past the due date. If the leaves have wilted, just cut off those bits before use. When your greens are starting to decay though (think mushy, slimy leaves), it's time to chuck.

#11 Honey and jam

You may well have thrown away jars of honey when the bottom has formed a large sugary lump.

But the spread is still perfectly safe to eat, despite any crystallization that has occurred.

The same applies to jam - the high levels of sugar preserve these items.

#12 Seafood

Never eat seafood once the use-by date is up - if you do, you're asking for food poisoning.

This is one food group where it's better to be safe than sorry.

#13 Meats:

Fresh meat should not be eaten a day or two after its expiration date, but if you freeze your meats, they will last for up to a year or longer! So stock up on those meat or chicken sales and stick them in the freezer.

#14 Milk:

Most milk will stay fresh up to a week after expiration date. But use your smell sense for this one and make sure it doesn’t smell sour before pouring. If it does, time to get rid of. Otherwise, get that cereal ready.

#15 Pasta

It doesn't matter how long you've had those packets of spaghetti and penne in the cupboard, they'll be fine to use indefinitely.

The trick is to make sure you store it in an airtight container if you've opened a packet - that way, no moisture can creep in and make it go off.

#16 Yogurt

Say goodbye to days of throwing out your half-eaten tub of yogurt, because this is another dairy product you can eat after its package labels it "expired." Open yogurt will spoil sooner than unopened yogurt, but sealed yogurt will usually last one to two weeks past the sell-by date. When it comes to yogurt, you just have to ask: Does it smell right? Is there mold in it? If not, then feel free to proceed with making your smoothie.

#17 Chips

Like bread, potato chips may get stale past their expiration date, but they are still perfectly safe to eat. If they are in an open bag, they'll be alright for a few weeks, but if the bag is sealed, it can still be good months later ... as if you'd have an uneaten bag of chips laying around for that long.

#18 The difference between a best before date and use by date

USE BY...

You will see 'use by' dates on food that goes off quickly, such as smoked fish, meat products and ready-prepared salads.

Don't use any food or drink after the end of the 'use by' date on the label, even if it looks and smells fine. This is because using it after this date could put your health at risk.

For the 'use by' date to be a valid guide, you must follow storage instructions such as 'keep in a refrigerator'. If you don't follow these instructions, the food will spoil more quickly and you may risk food poisoning.

Once a food with a 'use by' date on it has been opened, you also need to follow any instructions such as 'eat within three days of opening'.

But remember, if the 'use by' is tomorrow, then you must use the food by the end of tomorrow, even if the label says 'eat within a week of opening' and you have only opened the food today.

If a food can be frozen its life can be extended beyond the 'use by' date. But make sure you follow any instructions on the pack, such as 'cook from frozen' or 'defrost thoroughly before use and use within 24 hours'.

BEST BEFORE...

'Best before' dates appear on a wide range of frozen, dried, tinned and other foods.

'Best before' dates are about quality, not safety. When the date is passed, it doesn't mean that the food will be harmful, but it might begin to lose its flavour and texture.

Eggs can be eaten after their 'best before' date as long as they are cooked thoroughly until both yolk and white are solid, or if they are used in dishes where they will be fully cooked such as a cake.

Cooking eggs until both the white and yolk are solid will kill any bacteria, such as salmonella. People who are in 'at-risk' groups should only eat eggs, or food containing eggs, that have been thoroughly cooked. These groups include: babies and toddlers; elderly people; pregnant women; people who are already unwell.

Every year in the UK we throw away 7.2m tonnes of food and drink, most of which could have been eaten. So think carefully before throwing away food past its 'best before' date.

Remember, the 'best before' date will only be accurate if the food is stored according to the instructions on the label, such as 'store in a cool dry place' or 'keep in the fridge once opened'.

DISPLAY UNTIL/ SELL BY...

Date marks such as 'display until' or 'sell by' often appear near or next to the 'best before' or 'use by' date. These are instructions for shop staff, not for shoppers.

The important dates for you to look for are the 'use by' and 'best before' dates.

#19 Food Safety Tips

Since product dates don't give you a true guide to safe use of a product, here are some other tips from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Services:

Purchase the product before the date expires.

If perishable, take the food home immediately after purchase and refrigerate it promptly. Freeze it if you can't use it within times recommended on the chart.

Once a perishable product is frozen, it doesn't matter if the date expires because foods kept frozen continuously are safe indefinitely.

Follow handling recommendations on product.

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