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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.