HOME > Chowhound > Food Media & News >

More food expiration date hype, this time on Dr. Oz

greygarious Mar 24, 2010 03:21 PM

The program may have been a repeat. There was a quiz game wherein audience members had to guess how long certain foods can be kept before they "expire". The "correct" answers were 8 months for mustard, 2 months for mayo, 4 months for ketchup, 12 months for frozen meat, 24 months for canned vegetables, and 1 month for eggs. The source of the info was not given.

I loathe wasting food, so I keep things longer than some folks would. I certainly keep condiments in the fridge way longer than Oz advises, and only in the last year did I notice that ketchup bottles say refrigerate after opening. I never have, because they are out all day, if not 24/7, in restaurants. I am just finishing a huge jug from Costco, bought at least a year ago and kept in the cupboard. I've refilled a regular bottle with it as needed, also kept in the cupboard at room temp. Vinegar is a pretty good preservative.

Canned goods may have use-by dates farther out than 2 yrs, and can last a lot longer. On the other hand, if the can is bulging it's not safe regardless of date. I have been guilty of keeping raw meat in the freezer for many months, but even with careful wrapping it can get freezer burn. Vacuum-sealing minimizes that but fat caps can begin to smell old and off even then. I think the flavor deteriorates after 2-3 months tops, a month for ground meat, even if it hasn't officially "expired".

I hate to see features like this because they spur needless waste, and also because this particular show seems to have some sound medical advice - this type of thing makes me skeptical of his other assertions.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. s
    small h RE: greygarious Mar 24, 2010 03:35 PM

    Two months for mayo? That can't be right. I bought a jar about three months ago with an expiration date of August 2010.

    22 Replies
    1. re: small h
      ferret RE: small h Mar 24, 2010 03:45 PM

      That's two months BEYOND the expiration date.

      1. re: ferret
        small h RE: ferret Mar 24, 2010 04:27 PM

        So you're saying that it expires, and then it expires again? Does it un-expire in between, like Lazarus?

        1. re: small h
          ipsedixit RE: small h Mar 24, 2010 04:31 PM

          ... or like the Phoenix?

          Man, I've eaten yogurt that's 3 months or more after the listed expiration date.

          1. re: ipsedixit
            cookie monster RE: ipsedixit Mar 24, 2010 04:51 PM

            Hmmm . . . when I read the op first thing I thought of was a debate I had with a friend a few weeks ago about 2.5 months past its stated expiration date yogurt. It looked fine, smelled fine, but I wouldn't eat it. He did, and it came back up about 2 hours later. I'm just sayin' . . .

            1. re: cookie monster
              greygarious RE: cookie monster Mar 24, 2010 07:49 PM

              Yesterday I ate half of a previously-unopened pint of Trader Joe's Greek Yogurt that had been in the back of my refrigerator for ages. The expiration dae was August but I seriously think it was August 2008, not 9. Seal intact, looked and smelled pristine when opened. I added Splenda, almond extract, and some year-old cherry preserves. 30 hours later, no ill effects.

              1. re: greygarious
                toutefrite RE: greygarious Mar 26, 2010 01:19 PM

                wow. I had to read your post three times to assure myself that I wasn't blind! I am not bravely pragmatic like yourself, but I accidentally ate a long expired yogurt, freaked out upon seeing the date, but didn't feel sick. I was sure that if nothing else, I would psychosomatically induce an illness, but nothing!

              2. re: cookie monster
                ipsedixit RE: cookie monster Mar 25, 2010 09:00 AM

                And you know he upchucked because of the yogurt, how?

                1. re: ipsedixit
                  cookie monster RE: ipsedixit Mar 25, 2010 12:51 PM

                  Can I know that for sure? No. do I know that he wasn't otherwise ill and felt fine afterwards? yes. Do I know that 5 of us were together that day and all ate the same food other than the yogurt and no one else got sick? yes. So i have my suspicions.

                  In any event, isn't suffering ill effects from past its prime food more of a gamble than a sure thing? meaning you might eat expired yogurt ten times with no problem, and then the 11th time it gets you?

                  1. re: cookie monster
                    ipsedixit RE: cookie monster Mar 25, 2010 02:14 PM

                    But it's a gamble even without food that is NOT expired.

                    So what is exactly is the difference?

                    Maybe you say the odds are worse with expried food, but I beg to differ -- at least when you base "expiration" on a date stamped by the manufacturer.

                    I *know* when food has expired, and I don't need a hard to read imprinted date hidden in an obscure spot to tell me otherwise.

                    Date says "EXP MAR 26 2010" ... Does that mean on 12:01 a.m. March 27, 2010 you simply cannot eat that food item anymore? What if you started to eat the thing at 11:59 p.m. March 26, and didn't finish it until 12:02 a.m. March 27?

                    1. re: ipsedixit
                      cookie monster RE: ipsedixit Mar 25, 2010 04:55 PM

                      I believe that's the date after which some food industry scientist has determined there's a statistically significant possibility that the food may be spoiled. : )

                      (I don't tend to get involved in many Chowhound debates, but I've read enough of them to know when to quit)

            2. re: small h
              ferret RE: small h Mar 24, 2010 08:05 PM

              No, there's a printed expiration date which isn't necessarily the spoilage date but a date selected to ensure peak quality. You can still safely consume many products beyond these printed dates without harm or a serious decline in quality. It's just a safety cushion. Just like the rated maximum weight capacity on elevators usually understates the actual maximum by half or more.

              1. re: ferret
                small h RE: ferret Mar 24, 2010 08:21 PM

                That isn't a cushion. It's an entire sofa. I would never buy a jar of mayonnaise that had an expiration date a mere two months hence, simply because there's no way I can use an entire jar of mayonnaise in two months. And the fact that I've never had a problem finding jars of mayonnaise with expiration dates six months out (or more) means that either Dr. Oz is grievously misinformed, or Hellman's is putting a nation at risk. I think it's the former.

                1. re: small h
                  ferret RE: small h Mar 25, 2010 06:37 AM

                  You're missing the point. What he's saying is if the expiration date reads "November 2010" you can safely use it until January 2011. You have a cushion of 2 months BEYOND THE WRITTEN EXPIRATION DATE.

                  1. re: ferret
                    small h RE: ferret Mar 25, 2010 06:44 AM

                    Where are you getting that? The OP writes "...audience members had to guess how long certain foods can be kept before they "expire". The "correct" answers were...2 months for mayo...>

                    Which part of that suggests it's ok to keep food BEYOND THE WRITTEN EXPIRATION DATE? (also, stop yelling).

                    1. re: small h
                      greygarious RE: small h Mar 25, 2010 07:42 AM

                      OP here: the whole thing was poorly done. You might conclude that the segment intended to say that condiments were safe to use x months post the date on the packaging but that wouldn't make sense for the frozen meat. My guess is that the times for the condiments referred to how long they are good AFTER they are opened but if that's what was meant, it was by no means clear. And certainly canned goods aren't usable 2 years after they are opened....

                      1. re: greygarious
                        queencru RE: greygarious Mar 25, 2010 08:17 AM

                        That doesn't make sense to me either- so canned goods will keep at least 2 years after the expiration date? I have canned goods now that don't expire until 2012, so they'd be good until 2014? I rarely have frozen meat last a year just because it gets freezer burned before then.

                        1. re: greygarious
                          illy RE: greygarious Mar 25, 2010 09:07 AM

                          I didn't see the show, but what I do know is that expiration dates are for product that have NOT been opened. Once a product is open, it is exposed spores in the air that can cause foods to go bad. Once exposed to air, some foods last much longer than others. For example, cream cheese will only last about 2-3 weeks after it is opened (even if the best before date is 5 months away). But something like commercial mayo will last 4 months.
                          One thing, greygarious--ketchup does go bad after a while--it starts to go bubbly and ferment in the bottle. Long ago, when I used to waitress, I witnessed several people get covered in ketchup after the contents 'exploded' when opened--quite the scene!!

                          1. re: illy
                            greygarious RE: illy Mar 25, 2010 09:39 AM

                            Illly, having worked as a waitress, you're in a position to know: do restaurants leave the ketchup bottles on the tables round the clock? And are the empty bottles discarded, cleaned and refilled, or just refilled?
                            I wonder if that makes a difference as far as explosions go. Also, I'll bet sometimes the bottle sits uncapped during most of the patron's meal.
                            As I said, I never refrigerate. This is the first time I've bought a big jug of it, but I don't leave either that or the smaller bottle open any longer than it takes to pour some out.

                            1. re: greygarious
                              ipsedixit RE: greygarious Mar 25, 2010 09:44 AM


                              Having worked at restaurants with ketchup and mustard bottles on the table ... you really (and I mean REALLY) don't want to know the answers to your questions.

                              1. re: ipsedixit
                                illy RE: ipsedixit Mar 25, 2010 10:04 AM

                                Yeah, it really depends on the restaurant. Some place constantly top up (or "marry" ) old ketchup with new stuff. barf! and then that combination not being refrigerated--that can cause the fermentation explosion.
                                Personally, I always look at the ketchup label on the bottle. If it looks clean and intact, then I assume the restaurant at least uses the bottle once and then discards it (although probably do not refrigerate). If the paper label is peeling off (from a wet rag wiping it over and over and over again) I refuse to touch it. I've even asked for a "fresh" (re: new) bottle at places.
                                Those plastic red squeeze bottles always make me a bit nervous.

                                All of this said, back to the expiration date stuff--I too eat things way past the date. Just finished opening some jalapeno jack cheese with a AUG 09 date on it. It gets spicier with age! yum!

                                1. re: illy
                                  ipsedixit RE: illy Mar 25, 2010 10:12 AM

                                  If restaurants weren't refilling their condiment bottles, then why would Heinz sell products like these ...


                              2. re: greygarious
                                meatn3 RE: greygarious Mar 27, 2010 08:02 AM

                                The restaurants where I worked had a strict rotation schedule for the condiments regarding refilling and cleaning. Ketchup ( and BBQ sauce) were refrigerated nightly.

                                There would still be occasional "explosions" , especially by containers at tables where the sun poured through the window heating the bottle.

                                Note: The few places I worked that did not have good food handling practices in place I quit immediately. I won't sell what I won't eat - so that may account for the differences between my experiences and ipsedixit.

            3. Sam Fujisaka RE: greygarious Mar 24, 2010 03:48 PM

              Expiration dates and God! Some believe, others do not. I eschew expiration dates; but when I see spoiled food, stuff gone bad, I cut it out and cast it from me and into the eternal garbage pit. But condemn no food by date alone, a date given to it by man.

              4 Replies
              1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                ipsedixit RE: Sam Fujisaka Mar 24, 2010 04:32 PM

                "But condemn no food by date alone, a date given to it by man."


                Good words to live, and eat, by.

                1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                  Sooeygun RE: Sam Fujisaka Mar 25, 2010 06:26 AM

                  "a date given to it by man"

                  A man who would really like you to throw it out on the expiry date and buy more of his products.

                  1. re: Sooeygun
                    greygarious RE: Sooeygun Mar 25, 2010 05:41 PM

                    His brother is the guy who tells you to replace your toothbrush monthly and his sister want you to replace your lipstick and mascara twice a year.

                    1. re: Sooeygun
                      anonymouse1935 RE: Sooeygun Mar 26, 2010 03:25 AM

                      "A man who would really like you to throw it out...and buy more"

                      Exactly. Conspicuous consumption.

                      Who listens to Dr. Oz anyway.

                  2. ChefJune RE: greygarious Mar 25, 2010 11:44 AM

                    I think those dates are VERY conservative. From time immemorial it's been known that ketchup contains so much sugar it's not necessary to refrigerate it at all. Like the cockroach, it will still be sitting on the kitchen table when mankind has ceased to exist!

                    And I've been keeping house for a really really long time nad have never had mustard or mayo (even homemade) spoil on me before it got used up.

                    As for canned goods, we always went by the "pop-top" guide. Damaged cans were more likely than the other to pop their tops, and that meant toss it. I use so few canned items I don't even think about that any more.

                    1. a
                      Alice Letseat RE: greygarious Mar 25, 2010 02:35 PM

                      And I do hate to mention this - those aren't expiration dates. They are "pull dates," unless noted as "use by:" And even then, smelling the stuff - or a tiny taste - should be enough to help you decide to throw or use.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Alice Letseat
                        Steve Green RE: Alice Letseat Mar 26, 2010 09:14 PM

                        A tiny taste of spoiled food can make you very sick.

                      2. dave_c RE: greygarious Mar 26, 2010 06:03 AM

                        I believe expiration dates apply to unopened containers.
                        Once you break the seal it all depends upon how the product is stored and used.

                        1. j
                          julesincoq RE: greygarious Mar 26, 2010 03:49 PM

                          I wonder if he was referring to home made mayo? I'm sure that has a shorter shelf life. Anything is good until it's not good anymore. Dates are meaningless. Did you notice there is even a date on your diet pop? It's not because it goes bad it's because the aspartame starts to lose its sweetness after a few years. Big deal. Drink it as long as it tastes ok.

                          Now lets talk about the expirey dates on medicine!! Did you know that is also just a guideline. Some man somewhere decided that after a certain date it might not be quite as effective as it was on the day they made it. It might not be....or it might be just fine. I'm amazed at the number of people who throw it away thinking that if it is expired it has somehow turned into poison!

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: julesincoq
                            greygarious RE: julesincoq Mar 26, 2010 04:03 PM

                            I once found a six-pack of caffeine-free diet cola (Pepsi, I think) in my garage that was several years past the expiration date. I opened one: not only was it flat and bitter, with no cola taste at all, but it was colorless! If I hadn't already known that it's an artificial-everything beverage, that would have been a great lesson. For other reasons, I no longer drink carbonated sodas anyway. When I refill a prescription, the expiration date given is automatically one year from the date of filling. Only if I'm dispensed an entire manufacturer's bottle do I get to see the "real" expiration date, not that I believe it's worth the ink it's printed with.

                            1. re: greygarious
                              Karl S RE: greygarious Mar 27, 2010 11:47 AM

                              Hello, there are dates on bottled WATER!

                          2. Phil Ogelos RE: greygarious Mar 27, 2010 06:15 AM

                            I can't help but be reminded, reading this thread, of the penultimate scene in Monty Python's "The Meaning of Life" when the Grim Reaper comes to bring all of a party of haute bourgeois dinner guests to their deaths. One of them asks, "Why?" and the GR points his bony finger down toward the table and growls, "the salmon mousse!"

                            And as the dear departed depart for heaven through the host's front door, one of the condemned cries, "But I didn't *have* the salmon mousse." And yet she's swept up all the same.

                            Show Hidden Posts