Don't Throw That Milk Away, You Can Still Drink It a Week After the Expiration Date

Categories: Food Facts
dip ED.jpg
Ily Goyanes
Dip which I allegedly shouldn't have eaten past April 2, 2011, which tasted great on June 5.
Who actually pays attention to those "use by" and "best before" dates on food packaging? Apparently a lot of people do, to the tune of millions of pounds of good, still edible food being thrown away.

In the UK, it's called "best before paranoia," but it should just be called ignorant and needless waste. It turns out that those tiny numbers are not really warning us that we will get sick or die if we eat any food past that date -- it's giving us a head's up that it just may not taste as good as it did before that date had passed.

Did you know that 99 percent of food does not legally require any kind of date on it at all?

"The first thing to understand is that there are a bunch of different kinds of dating (best by, use by, expiration dates) that all have slightly different meanings," explains Michael Batz, head of food safety programs at the University of Florida's Emerging Pathogens Institute.

"The second thing to understand is that most of these dates have nothing to do with getting sick. These dates are mostly there for quality -- texture, taste, color, and so forth. In fact, the only dates required by law are those on infant formula and some baby food."

In my house, we eat stuff past the expiration date all the time and this was before I found out that those dates are bogus. In my case, it's because I'm an animal -- I have always gone by the smell of food to decide if it was good to eat.

There are also foods that stay fresher longer -- packaged, prepared food like hummus for instance, stay much longer than deli meats. "Ironically, the one type of food that doesn't usually have a date, but should, is food from the deli department. When you buy turkey slices or macaroni salad from the deli, there often isn't a date, but they should be eaten within three to four days. The risk for these products is a bug called Listeria monocytogenes, which grows well in refrigerator temperatures and is often associated with deli products," informs Batz.

macaroni salad ED 4.jpg
Ily Goyanes
Supposedly expired ham salad which made a great sandwich weeks later.
When my mom stays over, she literally freaks out when I drink milk that has "expired." And most people tend to think that milk is one of those foods whose expiration date you really must adhere to. Not so, says Batz. "The dates on meat, poultry, seafood, milk and other perishables are called "sell by" dates and are really there for the retailer to keep track of freshness. Milk is safe a week or so past the sell by date, poultry should be eaten or frozen within two days, and beef and pork should be eaten or frozen within five days."

Oddly enough, the date that people pay least attention to may be the most important. "The dates on most pantry items like peanut butter, canned soups, or cereals are called "use by" or "best before" dates. If stored correctly, most of these items are probably fine from a safety standpoint for quite a long time after. Personally, I wouldn't risk it with canned goods, since botulism is no joke. Bulging or damaged cans should always be tossed, regardless of date."

Fortunately, there is a way to know for sure what we can and cannot safely eat. "For specific products, I recommend the website stilltasty.com. They also have an iPhone app. For any product you have, it will help you answer the question, 'keep it or toss it?'."

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19 comments
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Joey
Joey

Amazing. I for one have always had an underlying fear experation dates and I have thrown away so much because of this. Having been raised to fear experation I never took the time to analyze and understand what it really was. This article has opened my eyes and was very imformative, but I wouldn't expect anything less from Ily Goyanes.

Msskat02
Msskat02

I eat things past the expiration date all the time. I have a good friend who owned a grocery store and she tells me that the expiration date is a come on. In fact, many products are good long after the date. Lots of negative brainwashed idiots out there...

RougeKat
RougeKat

Excellent article! Like previous post made here, I agree that people tend to overreact about the dates on most of the foods they buy. I roommate I had used to throw away everything as soon as the date marked arrived. He threw away brand new bags of bread, cereal, etc. All of it was still good to eat but the best part was hearing him complain about being broke or not having anything to eat.

As the author says, most of those dates are guidelines. Most foods change texture and smell when they go bad. it's not like you are eating green bread full of fungi!!

In these hard economic times people need to be smarter about what they do with there food and money. It's called being frugal and using common sense.

TheCriticalThinker
TheCriticalThinker

I love this article because its soooo true and so well put. People are so freaked out about "expiration" dates but spend most of their money on disgusting fast food. Its like paying to eat animals discarded parts mixed with cardboard but throwing away millions over 1 or 2 days off on an date on something healthier. Also Michael Batz takes a logical approach in regards to the issue. New Times keep up the good and funny work!

Bruja4ever
Bruja4ever

It is so funny, that this article was posted, for years I have eaten food after expiration date.  I have a friend who is a dr. and another who is a dentist assistant and they both told me, for example antibiotics are still good after expiration date, as long as the pill has not changed color.

As to the deli foods, I totally agree, specially slices, i.e. turkey, chicken, ham they get very slimmy.

Also just a little common sense folks, that is all it takes.  Good day!

Swimpegasus
Swimpegasus

A lot of medicinal companies do the paranoid thing too!

Christian Geymayr
Christian Geymayr

Wow, very interesting article. @c1b4c3acd866d98f18e28cdfb0b1733b:disqus  it doesn't say to ignore the dates it says that the dates don't mean it's necessarily bad yet. Dates are still a very good tool to go by in general terms but if the milk is one or two days after the expiration date it can still be good. Just like when you buy it from a little convenient store and it goes bad before the date because of lack of refrigeration. The deli meats was a very good point as they do indeed go bad rather quickly. Another thing that people should not ignore is when cans of canned goods rusts from being stored in humid areas. Anything with rust should be thrown out regardless of date. So the article does have a basis to be written as many people are ignorant to these little details. The basis of the article is that expiration dates are not law and that people don't need to follow them as strictly as some do. It doesn't mean that people should ignore them completely but instead use them as a tool to help guide them in knowing when something might be going bad soon or has already gone bad.

Booger
Booger

Perhaps we should start eating out of our neighbors garbage cans!  Apparently there is plenty of good food in there!

Ily Goyanes
Ily Goyanes

Oh, and it's also flattering how you take time out of your busy day to stalk my posts and make negative comments. Thank you.

Ily Goyanes
Ily Goyanes

Like your mom does, Booger? I know who you are btw. ;)

MidTown Res
MidTown Res

This article is stupid & irresponsible. Good for you, eat whatever you want. Don't advise people to ignore dates. How does this crap get approved for publishing? I.G. is hands down the most irrelevant writer on staff.

Elizabeth Figueredo
Elizabeth Figueredo

You sound like a fucking moron. Your comment is irrelevant & unfounded. If you have such a problem with Goyanes as a writer, write a real letter to her editor, don't post garbage on her article pages like you're a goddamned 14 yr girl because no one wants to hear you cry here.

MidTown Res
MidTown Res

And I am supposedly the one with "hate in my heart"? There is a comment option for a reason. If you are uncomfortable with people sharing their opinions in a public forum that encourages it, perhaps the USA is not for you.I am truly shocked by the thin skinned reactions of I.G. & her cohorts. If you are an opinion writer, in an online publication that allows commenting, you need to toughen up.Many people in your life and travels will have differing opinions from yours.And as far as the accusation that I have some personal vendetta? Ridiculous, as I have never met the writer and would have no reason for any personal feelings whatsoever.Maybe take a deeper look at yourselves ladies, and figure out why you're so angry.

Elizabeth Figueredo
Elizabeth Figueredo

Lol "Many people in your life and travels will have differing opinions from yours." thanks Deepak, that really opened my eyes to how the world works. I'm not angry, I'm easily annoyed by internet trolls that don't have the sack to even post their actual names. "Midtown Res"? -you're a loser hipster, keep replying to me, I don't have anymore time to dedicate to the fucking idiots in Miami, but the hits on the page will help Ily out & you clearly have nothing better to do.

Ily Goyanes
Ily Goyanes

And yet again your comment has no basis in reality. If what you said about me being thin-skinned and about my "co-horts" was true in any way, every single article of mine that had a negative comment would be bombarded by me and my "co-horts." And they aren't. For the most part I ignore comments like yours. But, you are just so off the mark, so utterly irrelevant, that people apparently had to call you out on it. To put it plainly, you're full of it. Not one single comment you have made has any basis in reality. Not a single one. All your comments demonstrate that you're either nuts, starved for attention, or really, really stupid. 

Whatever your reason(s) for acting a fool are, I'm over it. You got your 15 comments of fame. Congratulations. 

Ily Goyanes
Ily Goyanes

It's obvious that you have some personal vendetta or just a lot of time on your hands and very little reading comprehension, because your post makes no sense in regards to the article. Not once do I say "ignore dates" and I quote a FOOD SAFETY EXPERT who explains that those dates are really meant as guidelines as to when the food's taste, texture, and color are at their best, not as to when food EXPIRES.

Next time you're bored, at least read the article properly before you start making asinine comments. You made a fool of yourself.

MidTown Res
MidTown Res

I see you removed your previous reply to me, which was essentially, "your mama". You make a fool out of yourself every time you have a childish argument with someone who thinks you're a crappy writer. The article is posted as "Don't throw that milk away, you can still drink it a week after the expiration date". That is advising to ignore the expiration date.

You're a clown.

Ily Goyanes
Ily Goyanes

I didn't delete it; I'm assuming one of the editors did. Why would I delete it? It was a joke -- like you. And now you're just making yourself look ridiculous again. Like "every time you have a childish argument with someone who thinks you're a crappy writer." What are you even talking about? 

If I didn't know it was personal, I'd seriously think you're just a bored, lonely person who tries to stir controversy so you can get some attention. Or is it both? See how you didn't mention the food safety expert who stated that most food is good past the expiration date? Why didn't you rag on him for saying that people don't have to strictly adhere to those dates? You're just hating on me for your own personal reason(s). Grow up and be good. I'm sorry you're so miserable. You have a lot of hate in your heart. 

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