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living dangerously--just how expired can it be and still be edible?

I know that expiration dates are there for a reason, but in general, how far past can you go and still be safe? Drugs are usually good for almost 2-3 past the expiration date stamped on the box. What about yogurt? Bread? Milk? What about cooked foods stored in the fridge? I told a friend recently he'd be fine eating a five day old burrito if he "just heated it up a lot to kill anything that might have grown" and was firmly chastized by a nutritionist for my bad advice.

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  1. Well, there are plenty of "official" answers which tend to always err on the side of caution.

    I worked in the nutritional supplement industry. As a rule, everything was marked to expire about 18-24 months before it acutally would, knowing that people would ignore the exp dates.

    My dad was a butcher and worked in plenty of grocery stores. He basically taught us to disregard exp dates and trust our noses on things like milk, other dairy, etc. He was known to just cut the mold off a piece of cheese and eat the unmolded part.

    Cooked stuff in the fridge, I'll usually eat for 4-5 days. After that, I toss it. I generally freeze any left overs that have been in the fridge for 2 days so that I won't have to toss it.

    The five day old burrito...I would've eaten that.

    2 Replies
    1. re: geg5150

      Mold - what you see on the surface is like the tip of an iceberg. The mold does not just grown out, it also grows in, under the surface where you don't see it. Mold is a micro-scopic pathogen. What you can see with the bare eye is just the largest, grossest manifestation. The vast majority of the mold on the food is too small for you to see with the naked eye. Does that mean it is not there? most definitely not.

      I have a rule I use for questionable food. It's a simple question. "Do I really want to feed this to someone I love if there is ANY chance it is spoiled or bad?" It's so much easiler to toss that cracked egg or moldy cheese or week old burrito than face the thought of serving my loved ones something that even MIGHT make them sick. And hey this IS America where we're all overfed, and food is cheap, and there's plenty morew in the fridge to choose from - why risk your loved one's health? How could you even consider serving your family spoiled food?

      1. re: niki rothman

        mold (per se) is NOT a pathogen witness penicillin. were it (as if there were only one type of mold) so, there would be no cultured milk products, bleu cheeses etc. any number of hard cheeses can have the surface mold carved off an eaten safely. there are indeed pathogens which fall into the mold category just as some bacteria do but...

    2. I think most drugs lose their potency past the expiration date, but otherwise safe. Yogurt, since I consider it to be one of the already 'spoiled' products, I've eaten past the expiration date (but if it's been in my fridge say a month I'd toss it). bread is ok as long as it doesn't have mold (even the stalest of them you can revive in an oven). milk i always judge by the smell and taste, never by the exp. date - sometimes my milk doesn't survive till the expiration date. prepared foods I never keep more than 24hrs, unless I freeze them.

      1 Reply
      1. re: welle

        Well, I can say that I just ate some Fage Total yogurt WELL past the date on the carton (by about 3 months? LOL) and I'm still alive.

        I think it being unopened and in the cold part of my fridge (one of those "got shoved to the back of the bottom part of the fridge by leftovers Tupperware" situations) definitely helped. And of course, I did a bit of a taste-test to see if I could tell a difference in taste/smell.

      2. I have the remnants of a gallon of Clover skim milk w pull date of 8/4. I hadn't noticed and had been making milkshakes with HD Mayan Choc. Last night I drank a glass straight. It tasted slightly off. I did finish it, but decided to let the garbage man take the rest away tomorrow morning.

        btw, I believe those dates represent the last day the retailer should sell, so clearly still edible for some time after.

        1 Reply
        1. re: chocolatetartguy

          In some of the stores around here, the milk now has both a "Sell by" date and a "Use by" date printed on the jug. The "use by" date listed is generally a week past the sell by date. I usually get my milk in the half-gallon cartons though, because those seem to keep better (one brand I usually buy actually has its sell-by dates on the cartons as much as a month away, where you rarely see sell-by dates of more than a week or so on gallon jugs.)

        2. Generally, I will eat leftovers up to 5 days. However, I've read that leftovers should be tossed after 3 days. I am really iffy about mold, though, so if I see even a little bit of mold I throw the entire thing out.

          1. Pure eye, nose, and taste test. I usually ignore expiration dates.

            1. Funny you should just mention this! I found a pint of heavy cream in the back of the refrigerator, opened it and have been using it for my coffee because I'm out of Half and Half. I'm a stickler about checking and buying everything with a far off expiration date. Lo and behold when I looked at the expiration date, the date on the cream was May 6. 90 days past the date and still completely edible. Smells, looks and tastes fine. The carton has been open for a couple of days and still no issues. Am I playing with fire?

              10 Replies
              1. re: OneJayneDoe

                Milk doesn't go bad. It just turns into something else like, say, cheese. You can even drink it when it gets smelly and sour and it, probably, wont kill you (so long as it's refrigerated). I think it's a matter of taste.

                1. re: MollyGee

                  I've noticed that lactaid and those lactose free milks always have an expiration date that is far longer than regular milk--sometimes even months--and when it expires it doesn't really "turn". I've thrown out cartons that are a month expired but didn't cheese up or stink. I wonder why those products last so much longer than just regular old milk.

                  1. re: erikka

                    The living organisms have been processed out of the product. It has nutritional value, yes, but otheriwse is hardly like the original.

                    1. re: erikka

                      > lactaid and those lactose free milks

                      That's a very interesting observation. Lactaid is the enzyme lactase, which converts lactose to the simpler sugars glucose and galactose. Perhaps these are more "stable" in the fridge? Or perhaps whatever feeds on them don't cause that strange separation which makes old milk look so nasty...

                      1. re: Jefferson

                        No Lactaid (and half and half etc)are "ultrapastuerized", which means they heat it at a higher temp but for a shorter period. Foodservice milk is even ultrapastuerized now, so they don't have all that waste. The milk product isn't rearranged in any way.

                        1. re: coll

                          the beneficial bacteria that inhabit and help to strenghten your digestive tract are eliminated

                          1. re: Karl Gerstenberger

                            Sorry I should have specified: Lactaid is not like normal milk, but the reason it keeps so long is because it's ultrapastuerized. Regular (ie Hood) milk doesn't have anything unusual in it, it's just the heat process that's different. But people do find that hard to believe.

                    2. re: MollyGee

                      that's not actually true. If it's pastuerized, most of the good bacteria is killed and when it goes bad, it is growing bad bacteria, not good ones you find in yogurt and sour cream, etc. I wouldn't drink it if it's smells, tastes bad.

                    3. re: OneJayneDoe

                      I posted recently about the wisdom of storing dairy producs in the back of the fridge where it's the coldest. But 90 days, for cream! Wow! Credit for that tip goes to Potluck, by the way.

                      1. re: OneJayneDoe

                        It's pretty obvious when milk/cream has gone bad. It smells sour and curdles when you pour it in your coffee. Btw, milk/cream with higher fat content keeps much better than nonfat or lowfat milk (this is probably why your cream kept so well).

                      2. Hi,

                        I agree with the eye, nose and taste tests as well, but before doing that, in general, dairy is good for a week after the date listed, then I start checking for off smells, mold, etc. Bread is good until it is stale or moldy. Most cooked leftovers, meats, etc., I'll keep for a week or a day or two more than that. I just finished up the remainer of a roast yesterday that I cooked a week and a half earlier, but that is a record for me. It was still good, by the way. Raw meat is another story, I'll freeze what I don't plan to use in a couple of days. By the way, I work for a pharmaceutical manufacturer, and while the active drug may still be good after the listed expiration date, the level of impurities start to rise after that point. Too many impurities are not good. The above is just my opinion.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Michelle

                          I would so agree with you on the point about drug actives being still good but impurities potentially being a problem. I'd toss pharmaceuticals past an expiration date before I'd toss food.

                        2. I have an unopened box of cereal that has a "better if used by" date of february 2003. Do you think it's safe to eat?

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Humbucker

                            With the amount of preservatives they pump in that stuff, heck--sure, go for it! Might be a bit stale, though.

                            1. re: Humbucker

                              It's probably "safe" to eat unless bugs from your pantry have gotten inside...it's probably stale though...and if it's not...I'd question what the heck is in there that's kept it from NOT getting stale all this time! LOL.

                            2. OMG if we could just stamp out nutritionists! These people have no degrees just opinions. A true Registered Dietician or Home Economist is who you want to trust.

                              If it smells good, has no mold or other stuff growing on it, doesn't curdle in your coffee then it is fine. Cheese gets mold from all sorts of places, even your fingers from touching it when you hold it in place to slice it. Just cut that off unless it just goes too far in to the cheese and smells like a funky old sneaker.

                              The sell by date has little to no bearing on the use by date.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: Candy

                                Try mentioning "raw milk" in the wrong circles...

                                1. re: Candy

                                  there are plenty of well-aged cheeses that smell like a funky old sneaker that are not only safe, but utterly sublime, to eat.

                                  This came up some time ago -- white or green fuzzy mold is okay -- cut it off (always better not to eat the live surface molds - the critters that make bleu cheese are not included in this discussion)

                                  Pink or orange mold (we're talking bubble-gum and Tang color here...no doubt that it doesn't belong on a cheese!), and/or anything that looks wet and slimy -- pitch it. These particular strains of mold produce toxins that spread deep into the host material and can make you terribly ill.

                                2. I am in agreement with most everyone here.

                                  I do however have a problem with past sell by dates on foods in stores or, as was the case yesterday at Whole Foods having no eggs with a sell by date later than 08/11. I live alone and at most can use 6 eggs in a week. And eggs are iffy things if stored incorrectly. I trust my vendors but with the big ones like Whole Foods I can't know how they've been handled before delivery.

                                  Thankfully my co-op has local eggs and the sell by date is never an issue as it's usually far in the future.

                                  8 Replies
                                  1. re: MplsM ary

                                    I wish there was a way you could buy a few eggs at a time. I go through two, maybe three a month. Now I buy eggbeaters because that lasts longer, but it doesn't taste the same.

                                    1. re: erikka

                                      Eggs will safely last for six or more months in the fridge without losing a lot of flavor. Even a six month old egg will taste better than eggbeaters.

                                      As has been said elsewhere, store them in the back of the fridge to keep them coolest.

                                      Some supermarkets sell half dozen eggs, but I never trust the age of eggs from supermarkets. Find a farmers market or farm near you and buy some fresh eggs. Then you know they are eggs that are fresh. Some farmers will also sell by the half dozen. Even if you buy a dozen, they will keep for six months if you use two a month. One farmer in SF sells single eggs, but I've never seen that elsewhere.

                                      I just read your chicken in the egg post further down, but that would have been in the egg if you cracked it open right after it was gathered. Sitting in the fridge, a chicken isn't going to continue growing in the egg. Would be cool though. One day you wake up and there are hatched chicks running around your fridge. The meal changes from omelette to chicken soup. Just kidding. That would have creeped me out too, but that would be really rare unless your dad bought balut by mistake.

                                      1. re: erikka

                                        I had a box of month-old eggs so searched around on the web for safety tips. In summary: (1) if you immerse them in 3-4 inches of water, the ones still touching bottom are the freshest, those at float up a little are "going," and those that float a lot are "rotten"; and (2) at that age, they are better hard-cooked than soft.

                                        1. re: Jefferson

                                          The salt water test is not reliable, it doesn't test well for age because the thickness of the shell may interfere. Eggs are good for five to six weeks after the date on the package. They are marked for 30 days after the date they are laid and packed. Grade AA are fresher (but they may have been sitting on the shelf longer so double check the date) and can be hard to find.

                                          1. re: Budser1228

                                            There is a 3-digit numbe r(based on 365 days in a year) on the end of egg cartons that identifies the date on which the eggs were packaged. Obviously, you want to buy the eggs with the lowest number.

                                            1. re: pikawicca

                                              Highest number kiddo. The higher the number the later into the years and the fresher the eggs.

                                              1. re: jfood

                                                Sorry about that -- I'll reboot my brain.

                                        2. re: erikka

                                          Wow - I am glad this thread got resurrected just to respond to this post. I don't know where you live but co-ops usually let you buy eggs in any quantity - one to as many as are feasible. I bring my own carton when I can, and buy six at the same price per egg as a dozen.

                                      2. Anyone who shops at the 99 Cent Only stores knows that many items can be safely consumed quite some time after the posted expiration date. I have been doing this almost daily for years with many of their products with no ill effects at all. Some items were well over a year expired. We bought them and consumed them over a period of months after purchase. I trust their judgement to make sure that what they sell is safe.

                                        1. "I know that expiration dates are there for a reason"

                                          1. To protect the company legally
                                          2. To keep really sleazy companies from selling really old products

                                          There are not even consistant laws from state to state about these dates and only infant formula is federally regulated.

                                          As this excellent article from Raley's says (and it answers many of your questions)

                                          "The expiration dates are available primarily to use as a taste guide and not necessarily for food-safety purposes."


                                          So the dates are more guidlines for living deliciously.

                                          As everyone says look it over and sniff it. Harmful mold has this look that unmistakeable. It looks evil. Don't tastes anything that smells off or looks bad.

                                          IMO, getting sick is like winning the lottery ... the bad luck lottery. Just like the lottery, it doesn't happen that often, but is a big deal when it happens.

                                          My S/O is from another culture. At first I was alarmed how long he kept things ... often unrefrigerated. If it is bad to eat on its own, he incorporates it into some sort of dish.

                                          Although I still won't eat some of the stuff he does, it has loosened me up a whole lot and I eat food far after the time I might have in the past.

                                          Roberto HAS eaten that five day old (and older) burrito. I might at this point too ... though right now I'm just dying to throw out the three week old piece of pizza ... the man will heat it and eat it ... sheesh.

                                          Don't forget that the freezer is your friend. When things start getting iffy to me I throw them in the freezer. Even milk can be frozen.

                                          Also the date doesn't mean much once something is opened. Yogurt might have an expiration date three weeks away, but that is if you don't open it. Once opened, it starts to go bad and with yogurt you can tell by looks and smell. Same with all dairy.

                                          I think where care needs to be taken is for young childern, the elderly and anyone with health problems. If something is bad, their immune systems might not be able to deal with it.

                                          You didn't ask about canned foods, but as this site says, unless the can is bulging or leaking, the food is ok. It just doesn't taste as fresh, the texture might deteriorate, the color might change. I thought this was interesting.

                                          "Canned food as old as 100 years has been found in sunken ships and it is still microbiologically safe! We don't recommend keeping canned food for 100 years, but if the can is intact, not dented or bulging, it is edible."


                                          Use your senses.

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: rworange

                                            What about condiments? I have jars of pesto, ketchup and other sauces that have been in my fridge for years--that stuff can't last forever, right? Bottles of soy sauce I keep at home always tastes strange to me, like it's fermented or something--I've tried putting it it the fridge and it still tastes funky.

                                            I believe, to an extent, Americans are overly obsessed with hygiene and food aesthetics and we probably end up throwing out a lot of stuff that is perfectly good--like bruised fruit. And I know other culutres aren't as crazy about refridgeration as we are and they seem to get by just fine.

                                            1. re: erikka

                                              The link to the Raleys article has some info about condiments. They say a couple of months, but I've kept hot sauce over a year and mustard for many months. It usually takes moving for me to toss the condiments.

                                              I think the sniff and taste rule still applies. One good hint in that link was to make sure to clean the top of the bottle after using so the dripped gunk doesn't build up. Usually that's the reason I don't use alot of stuff, it looks unappealing.

                                              Mayo keeps quite a while, but when it goes bad it sort of turns translucent and creeps me out. Whether it is edible, I don't care. It looks icky.

                                              1. re: rworange

                                                Three months for ketchup?! Ha! Try two years. But seriously, I figured very acidic products would keeep infinitely in an environment that isn't condusive to bacterial growth. I recently had to throw away a bottle of mustard because it froze and separated, and lord only knows how old that was. I'll have to sing happy birthday to everything next time I clean out my fridge.

                                                I'm still tripping over three months--who goes through a whole jar of mayo or bottle of ketchup in that little time? Even though they're not as good of a value, I'll start buying the smaller containers in the future.

                                          2. I find the different "expiration lingo" so inconsistent and confusing, so I'm constantly calling companies to ask what their "sell by" or "exp. date" or whatever means. This is obviously for packaged foods. And of course you need some sort of key to decipher the codes that some companies use such as H3GH4VM means "it was made on August of 2003 and is good for 5 years after that date".

                                            Of course, some packaged things won't make you sick, but they aren't as good over time: cake mixes won't rise, beans get mushy, etc.

                                            Leftovers (mine or from a restaurant) I always use within 3 days or freeze. Fresh meats I never use past the date...if I can't use it, I freeze it.

                                            I guess I'm more on the conservative side. My mom always said "When in doubt, throw it out."

                                            1. Eggs? I only throw them out if they are a couple of months beyond the sell-by date. The only eggs I ever had that were bad were the ones sitting on a friend's counter for who knows how many weeks or months after being gathered from his chickens. If you buy them in the store, they've been refrigerated, so I would think they'd be fine for quite a while.

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: kayandallie

                                                Eggs are the only thing I am SUPER careful with due to a traumatic childhood experience where they didn't...uh...candle (or whatever they do these days) the egg and when dad cracked it into the pan there was a sizzling little half-formed baby chicken. I'm just wary of eggs in general--I have had more than my share of bad encounters and GI distress.

                                                1. re: kayandallie

                                                  There is a very simple test to determine if an egg is still "good" (i.e. safe to consume). Fill up a glass with water, carefully drop an egg in the glass of water. If the egg sinks (stays) at the bottom of the glass-- it's GOOD. If it floats a little-- about half up-- you can use it if you are going to bake it in something that will cook at a high temperature-- for a while (baked goods) -- NOT scrambled eggs or fried eggs for breakfast. A "bad" egg immediately floats on top of the water-- DO NOT USE! I get eggs from a friend that raises chickens-- and sometimes I get overwhelmed with too many eggs. Use this method all the time-- it has never failed. And just for a little information-- most eggs in the store have been "out of the chicken" for well over thirty days. But they have been "pasteurized". A freshly laid egg can actually sit out on the counter for 30 days without refrigeration!

                                                2. Generally you can eat or drink anything that is prepackaged if it has the original seal, shows no sign of expansion, and doesn't stink like death when you open it. Unless of course it's supposed to stink like death. Just because you can base jump off of buildings doesn't mean you should however. There's a not so esoteric value called freshness which is the concept that food chemists and packaging scientists are paid to simulate - but there is no subsititute. Rant, rant, rant...

                                                  Old drugs are not "good" in the sense of full potency I've always heard. Additionally it's also a handy way for the drug factories to keep the stockholders clapping at the annual meeting. Here's another fun rumor: Antibiotics don't get metabolized after you ingest them, they collect in the environment like a gymnasium for new strains of bacteria to test their strength. I know "unscientific" but I couldn't resist. Rant, rant, rant...

                                                  Dairy products are much more alive generally than other packaged foods, but there is ultrapasteurization which increases shelf life and eliminates the need for refrigeration. Hey it also eliminates the need to use them period. How about a nutritional supplement pill and some bottled water? The bacteria that exist in raw milk products (rare, rare, rare) and normally pasteurized products have not been entirely killed and so occasionally they take the wheel of the bus and make the old products taste like "rotten milk". The nose leads. If you're too thirsty to use your nose first, there's nothing quite so dissatisfying as a mouthful of sour milk and a sink full of dishes. Most yogurt is made with milk that's been pasteurized at least twice, and is so full of stabilzer etc. that it's extremely stable. If it happens to be a living product, it will let you know that it's past it's prime by smell alone. Bread has a little airborne friend called mold, and palatibility is also an issue. Mold? You're breathing it right now, unless you live in a bubble. Rant, rant, rant.

                                                  Old food in the fridge, hmhh. I've frequently thought of the fridge as the last holding place before burial - kinda like a morgue. Food safety in a home fridge is questionable given that few people know anything about sanitizing, cross contamination, wrapping properly, and the 40 - 140 bacterial playground also called the danger zone. It won't kill you, but neither will base jumping off of buildings. Rant, rant, rant.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: Karl Gerstenberger

                                                    What an image at the start of that last paragraph!

                                                  2. DH insists I post this. Last week I was making peach ice cream which called for evaporated milk. I chose this recipe because I know I have some evap. milk I wanted to get rid of. When I opened the can, there was a thick layer stuck to the lid which DH pounced on. He said it had gone bad and should be thrown out. I tasted it, it was a little more caramelly than normal but otherwise fine so proceeded with the ice cream. Which was delicious. We (mostly DH) have finished a quart of it already.

                                                    He cleans up for me and when he was clearing away the debris, he noticed the expiry date on the can of evap. milk. April 1998. He thinks that may be a record.

                                                    6 Replies
                                                    1. re: cheryl_h

                                                      The flavor and consistency of expired evaporated milk ruined all our pumpkin pies last Thanksgiving. Those cans were only from about 2002.

                                                      I was gifted a vacuum pack of smoked salmon that was stampted "Never Expires". How long before it changes or loses flavor or texture?

                                                      1. re: Neilo

                                                        Did the milk taste strange? I made sure my can of very old milk tasted normal before adding it to my ice cream. I would have been very upset if I ruined a gallon of ice cream just because I wanted to use up a can of milk.

                                                        I thought it was safe because it's processed at such high temperatures and canning is an excellent way to preserve food.

                                                        1. re: cheryl_h

                                                          I didn't try it first, or even think to smell it, but the pie was funky and not as firm as it shoulda been.

                                                      2. re: cheryl_h


                                                        Damn. You two probably won't need your shots before traveling abroad. Guts of steel!

                                                        The only thing I can even compare to that was finding a box of smurfs cereal on the shelves of a Russian grocer out in Brighton Beach. I checked the date on the box...1983. I wonder if anyone ever bought OR ate it.

                                                        1. re: cheryl_h

                                                          the UHT milk (the stuff that's stored at room temperature) definitely has a valid expiration date.

                                                          I've opened several bottles that were a couple of months past the sell-by, (I always pour it into something else first if I have any concerns), and it almost always is curdled and starting to go south.

                                                        2. I too go by the taste, smell and look of something...with refrigeration and good packaging foods keep much better than they used too...but beware the preservatives you're eating if food is keeping extraordinarily long...
                                                          Did you know if you wrap celery in aluminum foil it keeps for a month in the fridge without getting wilty? Works for romaine lettuce too...
                                                          In a hotel recently I grabbed some Pringles out of the mini bar and started muching..and then almost gagged...it was a year past the date and the oil had gone rancid...now then I KNEW it was bad! (hotel comped the bill). So check that minibar stuff!!!

                                                          1. When I was on a student budget, I sniffed and categorized old raw meats as either "smelly," "tainted" or "poison." I'd toss the poison, and wash the others with dishwashing detergent before cooking. With the luxury of an income, I'm a little more cautious, but still I hate to waste anything.

                                                            Recently, I was visiting my mother and she got a popcorn craving. There was about a third of a bag in the cabinet that had to be 10 years old. The outside was covered with a layer of greasy dust. However, the twist tie was tight and although it took a while, it popped just like nature intended.

                                                            So... I say, unless your animal instincts tell you it's not good, try it.

                                                            1. I am usuallyy pretty wimpy when it comes to the whole expiration date thing. I will not even drink milk on the date that is stamped. My question is how do you decipher expiration dates on canned goods from another country. I just ordered some snails from Amazon.com because they were at a great price add in $10 off $49 and free shipping and they came to only $12 for 72 extra large(my grocery store sells 12 for $7)). The label does say , "Best before date mentioned on the top", but I cannot for the life of me figure out what the date is. It reads, "02098 28 6dzH L2425107", I know that the "6dxH" must mean 6 dozen helix snails, but could they actually have expired in 98? or do they sometime in 07? I have searched online and cannot find any info on this. Normally I probably would have just trusted Amazon and opened them without even looking at the code but I am 7 months pregnant so I do not want to take any chances. Any help here would be greatly appreciated.

                                                              1. Expirary dates?! What are tho...agghkkk! Uggggwhhhaaaakhh. Thhwaap.

                                                                Acutally, agree with several above: if it smells/looks bad, toss it. Otherwise preceed with caution as long as kids are not involved.

                                                                1. Each one of my senses have veto power over eating.

                                                                  If it does not look edible, out
                                                                  If it does not smell edible, out
                                                                  If it does not taste edible, out
                                                                  If it does not feel edible, out
                                                                  If it does not sound edible, well almost all my senses

                                                                  I threw out a cheap bottle of white cooking wine from the grocers last night because the expiration date was Dec 1, 2006. Did i think it was bad, nope, but why take the risk?

                                                                  1. Why risk getting sick,

                                                                    I throw leftovers after 3 days, same goes for lunch meats 3 days after they were sliced & they are gone,

                                                                    When the milk is expired it goes in the garbage, the same for eggs.

                                                                    I always error on the side of caution when it comes to food.

                                                                    1. A few thoughts if anyone's heading out to buy long-expiry stuff:
                                                                      I really don't like the taste of ultrapasteurized milk. Around here the organic stuff is ultrapasteurized along with plenty of inorganic (heh). I default to Alta Dena, which claims not to use certain cow hormones, etc., etc., but is only 'pasteurized', not nuked. What tastes even better in my opinion is raw milk (I think digestion's better with this too due to enzymes etc.)... which of course goes off sort of fast so you have to use it within a few days of buying.

                                                                      To add to the advice about 'if it looks, smells, sounds...' I'd add: If you consider yourself pretty perceptive, this is a good way to go. If you don't consider yourself especially perceptive, maybe pay more attention to the expiration dates. I think I'm more smell-sensitive than my husband, so I'm quicker to throw out meat that's not quite right even if it's within expiration, or keep something that seems fine to me even if it's a bit past expiration.

                                                                      The thing I've gotten most confident about is eggs... when past expiry only once or twice in my life do I vaguely recall them having been actually bad when I cracked them open - and in both cases they were quite far past expiry and I wasn't planning to use them at *that* age anyhow. Have had them be fine for weeks to a month perhaps (maybe longer, but at that point I've usually refreshed the box).

                                                                      If you're looking for more info about what keeps how long, maybe google something like:
                                                                      food preservation FAQ

                                                                      Here are a couple links - the first one goes into some stuff about interpreting can codes:

                                                                      Oh, and what goes off more quickly than I think many people realize? Oils! (Mainly veggie/nut) And rancid oils can be realllllyyy not good for you.

                                                                      1. I am generally a stickler as far as expiration dates go. To me, it is just not worth the risk of poisoning myself which would totally be my luck. However, last night i was in a rush and going to throw together some BBQ Chicken Pitzas for dinner when i noticed the whole wheat pitas were one day past their sell by date. Typically this would have stopped me in my tracks, but I was just hurried and hungry enough to proceed. It turned out great taste wise, which I had no doubt about, but the date thing still nagged me as I ate.

                                                                        6 Replies
                                                                        1. re: ArikaDawn

                                                                          But with something like pitas you can SEE and feel that it is still fresh enough to use, so why would one day be an issue? The yogurt example I give above would be far more dangerous...although, as I said and I type here, I'm still alive. :-)

                                                                          And just one more point to make - the SELL-by date does not and never has equaled a USE-by date. If it actually says "Sell by XXX date", the item is invariably still good beyond that date. It's just the date the market is supposed to pull it off the shelf if it doesn't sell.

                                                                          So to me, to throw something away because it's one day past a Sell-by date just doesn't make sense.

                                                                          1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                            I totally recognize it is sort of impractical of me and I used to be not such a freak about it, but I got food poisoning once and ever since then I have serious hangups about freshness. Never have I been soo sick and miserable before and it pretty much scarred me for life, haha. It's amazing the havoc food can wreak on your body if proper care is not taken with it.

                                                                            1. re: ArikaDawn

                                                                              What's really impractical about that approach is that the things most likely to make you sick - salmonella, e. coli, etc. - can be caught from completely fresh food. You can catch salmonella from an egg that was laid 10 minutes ago, fruit that was cut before your eyes, or a freshly prepared salad from just picked órganic greens bought at a farmers' market.
                                                                              Many times the "sell by" or "use by" dates are CYA by processors and lead people to throw out perfectly good and useable food.
                                                                              Something might be old and have lost quality without being spoiled or unsafe. Stale bread, for instance, makes great crumbs, bread pudding, stuffing, etc. The French call French toast Pain Perdu - Lost Bread - because it would otherwise be lost when it is stale and they are too frugal to pitch it.

                                                                                1. re: MakingSense

                                                                                  All of that is perfectly logical and true. Again though, my hesitation canot seem to be surpassed with logic. I literally have never been so sick in my life. I lost 13 pounds was weak for a few months after. It was terrible. Anytime I am confronted with food that could even be a tad questionable it's like sensory flashback and I just cannot bring myself to take a risk.
                                                                                  One good thing that came out of it is that in my home you will find the most thoroughly cleaned produce and freshest foods at all times, haha.

                                                                                  1. re: ArikaDawn

                                                                                    At the risk of making you paranoid, I've gotten really sick - not sure if it was ptomaine, once probably e. coli - several times and it was from food that wasn't in the least questionable. Just really bad luck.
                                                                                    The CDC says that the most like causes of Salmonella today are juices, salsa, meat, sprouts, fruits and salads - even fresh. Remember during the organic spinach problem when they said you couldn't wash the e. coli off? Remember salmonella and e. coli are not dependent on freshness and cleanliness.
                                                                                    Some epidemiologists theorize that many Americans have become so germ-phobic that their use of sanitizers has kept them from building up normal resistance. They have no tolerance for ordinary levels of bacteria and get sick anytime they encounter anything unusual, even if it's not harmful. They're constantly sick and live with "funny tummies."
                                                                                    America's food is the safest in the world. Relax. With common sense, your chances of getting sick are statistically very low.

                                                                          2. My motto is, "If it smells, don't eat it."

                                                                            4 Replies
                                                                            1. re: LFeinberg

                                                                              I guess that rules out some cheeses, eh?

                                                                              1. re: QueenB

                                                                                I agree trust your nose and a little taste. Butter or oil,it's easy, that rancid taste will stay with you all day. Yogurt, I ate some last week, past the date, no stomach ailments to report. Milk forget it. I can't drink it if its on the date, or near, if it gets that watery milky swirl look to it, forget it. Probably wouldn't kill me but I want to barf just thinking about it.
                                                                                Meat. Uh Uh. I've had food poisining. No thanks. I didn't die, probably wasn't even close, but dearly wanted to. Fish I have to eat it the day I buy it unless its frozen.

                                                                                Left overs, usually I am over the meal, I freeze it the day its made, even if we eat it 4 days later. Unless you mark your containers its too easy to forget the date.

                                                                                Eggs, if they are near or on the expiration date, I boil them and we have egg salad or something with hardboiled eggs. Or I bake them up. In the egg container in my fridge, I put a little piece of paper facing the front with the exp date to remind me to use them before that date. And cheese there has been a couple of times that I have cut the mold off, and used it I figured blue cheese gets mold, its even introduced to the the product, so far so good. But not a normal practice.

                                                                                1. re: chef chicklet

                                                                                  Ha! Chef Chicklet, I am like you. I cannot count the number of times I have simply cut a moldy corner off a block of cheese and proceeded to eat it, however I am very persnikity about sell by dates on meat.

                                                                                  1. re: EAH

                                                                                    yeah meat will get that sorta rainbowy (there's a new word for you) top to it. I hate that! I have heard that does not mean anything, but it just works wonders for me.

                                                                            2. No one has mentioned expiration dates on things like baking powder and baking soda. It certainly won't kill you, but I have ruined whole batches of baked good because I didn't bother to check the date stamped.

                                                                              1. I don't eat expired foods as a rule, and I would not take expired medication, HOWEVER, I have always eaten expired yogurts and cheeses, especially blue cheeses.

                                                                                Right now I am eating a Stonyfield Farms Lemon no fat Yogurt that is 1 month past the exp date.
                                                                                It smells great and tastes as good as ever. I've been doing for years and nothing has happened to me yet.
                                                                                I guess I could just throw it away and eat one of the newer ones in my fridge, but why waste it? it's FINE.

                                                                                1. Bread and milk generally become unappetizing to me even before the expiration date is reached. So I usually try to finish those quickly.

                                                                                  I will leave prepared foods in the fridge up to 2~3 days, but a pot of stewed something or other I may keep longer. If I know I won't get to eating some leftover for the next 2~3 days, I just freeze it immediately. I find quality to suffer very little if the food is frozen and reheated properly.

                                                                                  1. don't forget that if you have any sort of respiratory ailment going on (allergies, cold, flu, sinusitis, etc., etc.) your sniffer is going to be pretty severely off-key and you shouldn't trust your nose to make any judgements. Good stuff can smell off, and off stuff can smell okay.

                                                                                    1. I've gotten pickier as I get older. I remember the days the milkman delivered bottles of milk in a box on our porch. Of course, back then, if memory serves me correctly, there was only whole milk. With 5 kids in the house, milk didn't last long. Not to mention that my mother hated to waste food. I also remember her keeping a grease can of bacon grease on the counter and never had a problem with that either. About 5 years ago I had purchased a container of rice pudding. It was about a week or so past the date printed on it. My logic told me that since it hadn't been opened yet, still had the plastic covering under the lid, I figured why not, it had to be still good to eat. I love rice pudding and like my mother, hated to see it go to waste. I opened the container, removed the lid and plastic covering took a whiff, it didn't smell bad, so I grabbed a spoon. I got maybe 3 or 4 bites in before I was running to worship the porcelain throne. Since then I've been probably way to diligent with anything with a milk product or even a by-product. All milk smells weird to me today.

                                                                                      As far as bread goes, I've heard mixed reviews on that too. If I know that I will be eating it within a few days, I'll leave it out on the counter. There are so many preservatives in all the food we're sold today. If I know the bread will be here for a while, I will refrigerate it. I've had bread from my fridge that was several months old and still good to eat. I tend to use that bread for toast or some other recipe that calls for bread crumbs. Sometimes I leave some bread items on the counter to fed the birds. These bread items were left on the counter for a several months at a time and I have yet to see it mold. Now just think about all the preservatives it took to keep that bread item from molding.

                                                                                      I personally agree mostly with the sniff test on liquid items. Meat is another story altogether. I have a very sensitive stomach and once the meat has gotten that slimy feel, because I didn't freeze it or cook it, I have tossed it.

                                                                                      I believe this "date" system that has been put into place is one way to get consumers to spend more money. I think they count on people getting confused or freaked out by a consumption date. You'd think that with all the preservatives we're force-fed, most things should last forever, lol. Except us of course, I think it's the chemical preservatives more than bad food that does us in. Shoot, how many of use can even pronounce some of the ingredients, much less know what they are and what side effects they may cause. I miss my grandfathers big vegetable gardens.

                                                                                      The one that really blows me away is the expiration date they put on water!!

                                                                                      Guess that's enough of my rant....and I was only trying to find out if my carton of unopened orange juice that had a Nov. 25, 2010 date, was still safe to drink on Jan. 3, 2010. Found conflicting answers, so I'm off to do some sniffing! Hmmm, I wonder if I should fill a glass and just go ahead and take it in to the porcelain throne, just in case, lol.

                                                                                      1. In late December we ate a carton of cottage cheese that had a late July expiry date and had been stored unopened in my quite cold fridge. I was about to toss it and thought wth, let me look at it. Looked and smelled fine. Tasted fine. No ill effects then or since.

                                                                                        1. I have eaten previously UNopened yogurt 6 months past the expiration date. smelled and tasted fine, no ill effects. Today July 4, 2014 I just opened cram cheese from 2011 expiration date. Looked, smelled and tasted just fine. DELICIOUS. Tillamook Cheddar cheese, 2 lb loaf, years and years old but very good (and very strong!) I believe if the dairy product is VERY sealed and kept cold, many will last for years. I use expired sour cream as well. Milk or cream is pretty much a big NO though for me.

                                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: Sophia2014

                                                                                            We have GoGurt in the refrigerator. It's my own little experiment. It got shoved to the back underneath the meat drawer. I found it a couple of years ago and it was fine then. I tried it again today (there are now three tubes left) and it was fine (for what it is). The best by date is December 11, 2009.

                                                                                            1. re: John E.

                                                                                              of course, I think GoGurt is the dairy equivalent of Twinkies.

                                                                                              There are so many chemicals in that crap that it'll still be fresh when there's nothing but GoGurt and Twinkies for the roaches to consume.

                                                                                          2. "Expiration" (usually "best by") dates are for food quality, not safety. There is no simple answer giving a safe time in storage. If a food contains a pathogen, it can reach unsafe levels rather quickly, depending on the temperature. But if there are no pathogens present, and the food is safely sealed, it will be safe for a long time.

                                                                                            1. Before about 20 years ago, most "sell by" dates were in code. Only the retailer and wholesaler knew what it was, not the consumer. We survived.