Eating Food After the Expiration Date

Yesterday, I ate a package of tofu that had an expiration date of June 2010. The reasons I knew the tofu was okay was that it had not been opened before, but had been kept in a vacuum-sealed bag in a very cold part of the fridge. On top of that, the tofu smelled and looked normal. There was no discoloration, strange liquids, smells, shrinkage, or anything out of the norm. So I tossed it in some cornstarch, fried it in some oil, added it to roasted vegetables from the garden, and it was a very tasty dinner.
To me, there’s no sense in throwing food out just because of the expiration date. First of all, most companies guarantee their food for 7-10 days after the expiration date. Secondly, whether or not something is bad has a lot to do with how you handle it. I regularly freeze food and use a vacuum sealer to deprive certain food of oxygen (oxidation is one of the main reasons that food goes bad). I also use my senses–including common sense–and examine the food before I eat it.
And I have never gotten sick by eating food this way.
Which is not to say that there isn’t plenty to be concerned about when dealing with oldish food. There are bacterias that can lurk in food that are difficult to detect and it is always better to throw something out rather than to take a risk with it, especially when dealing with meat or dairy. When in doubt, throw it out, they say.
But that’s different than blindly throwing out food just because it says so on the package. The package date is often wrong and the food is still good. Throwing out perfectly good food is a waste of money.
Now there’s a website called Still Tasty that goes over the shelf life of different food. It has some decent information on there, but I prefer to listen to Christine Bruhn on the topic. Bruhn “is the Director of the Center for Consumer Research at the University of California, Davis where she earned her doctorate” and “has a special interest and passion for safe food handling practices.” In other words, she’s an expert on food handling, and she has recorded a series of videos for Monkey See with information on how to tell whether your food has gone bad or not.
Here is her video on How to Tell if Your Leftovers Have Gone Bad.

Check out the rest of the series for more information on this topic.

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5 thoughts on “Eating Food After the Expiration Date”

  1. The Expiration date on food is for selling- not necessarily usage. This is one reason it drives me nuts to see a store throw out perfectly good dairy and eggs- just because it passed the expiration date. You were right to check it and use it!

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  2. I love that my grocery store puts short dated milk and eggs on sale, sometimes are ridiculously low prices-last week I got gallon jugs of goat milk for $1 each. For $10 I tossed 5 in the freezer, and made cheese with the rest. As my cheese dwindles, I’ll pull out jugs and make more.
    Common sense is the biggest thing about food safety…great videos!

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  3. Glad you guys agree. Expiration dates are just suggestions, as far as I’m concerned.
    ETA: I always assume other people have a sense of humor, but not everyone does. So: I am being tongue-and-cheek here. Not literal.

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  4. Expiration dates aren’t suggestions, as much as a guarantee that prior to that date the food will be ok. This means that any use after the best-by/sell-by date removes any liability from seller/producer/packer.
    Local stores here regularly half-price meat/fish/dairy at the end of the day if they are nearing expiry date. Half-price milk = cheese, meat will last another couple days to a week, the only exception being chicken which seems to go bad really fast, and I avoid unless I’m using it the next day.
    And if you’re really organized you’ll figure out what their marking down policies and inventory restocking times are and shop on those days/times. It’s like coupon clipping without the paperwork.

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  5. OMG! I thought I was the only one around that understood the rational of expiration dates!
    I wish the grocery stores here would offer up discounts instead of tossing good food. I have actually seen people throw unopened food (jars, bottled, etc) away. Furthermore, shelters and other charitable organizations will NOT accept outdated packaged food. We have become a throwaway nation, no wonder we are in the state were in! Thanks for letting me vent!

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