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Eating expired foods

I made some tuna salad today, mustard, mayo & relish...after consumption I noticed the relish expiration date was June 2008....

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  1. Ah, I'm sure you'll live. When I moved in with my husband I had to go through his fridge and cupboards to cull the coffin of expired goods. He worked overseas at the time and wasn't home often, so I was only mildly surprised when I found tomato sauce that expired in 2004 and corn chips that expired in 2006. I should mention that I threw this stuff out in 2010.

    1. The United States States government gave me c-rations, that were from 1950 to eat in 1967-68 to eat 3 times a day. I'm still here, kinda.
      Relish is sterilized by neon, anyway. Relax.
      Carpe Chow!

      1 Reply
      1. Hmmm, well at least I'm not the only one with expired food ha ha. It passed the smells fine tastes fine test ha ha. My friends all know I rarely use the expiration dates anyway, but I do think that is the most expired thing I have eaten.

        My Dad has said the same thing about those C-rations!! Lol

        2 Replies
        1. re: jeepgurl775

          Two years and still tasty? You're fearless. I'm also impressed by the canning skills. I'm also glad you didn't fall ill or get crazy super powers from eating it. :)

          We get to see what 2000 year old Roman society looked like because of their art. Maybe 2000 years from now our ancestors will be able taste what our society tasted like? Well, maybe . . . that might be a little too long.

          1. re: Altarbo

            Well, I opened it sniffed it, and added it to the tuna, tasted great! It wasn't until I went back in the kitchen and saw it sitting on the counter and went to put it away that I saw the expiration date... Crazy super powers would have been cool! :)

        2. unless the can is bulging or rusty...I really only pay attention to the sell by or use by dates, otherwise the expiry is really just on there for corporate quality control. depending on the foodstuff in question it probably just won't taste or appear the way the test kitchen intended it.

          I also ignore the refrigerate after opening warning unless it's something like mayo.

          1. Well I don't know about the US, but in Australia it's a legal requirement to have expiry dates - even if the product isn't really going to expire. Many years back when I worked in pharmacy I had an interesting discussion about how some drugs just do not degrade, but they had to have listed expiry dates to comply with law. I'm definitely in the look and smell camp before deciding.

            24 Replies
            1. re: TheHuntress

              pharmaceuticals? that's another kettle of fish. some don't degrade exactly but get, well, different. suffice to say in late adolescence, the mothers of more than a few friends were bored, neurotic and had heavily stocked medicine cabinets. we found there is a certain psychoactive medication in particular that when allowed to age 3 years after the expiration was a lot of fun and only a little dangerous (don't combine with alcohol)

              1. re: hill food

                Oh I absolutely agree, I was just kind of using the analogy (not very successfully :D) that some things have an expiry date to protect the company/comply with law, rather than actually identifying a genuine expiry. I am very interested in your story, however I understand this is no place to tell it...

                1. re: TheHuntress

                  I dunno about the US, I think other than meat and dairy (and drugs) it's a very grey area. I do know a lot of companies choose to put them on to reduce consumer complaints (since some things like mustard do separate over time - yeesh, just stir it) and turn over the retail product faster.

                  nothing much to tell, just idle kids with no cash, but from over-privileged families with a penchant for mild mischief.

                  but to keep this on topic, I'm continually amazed by the difference in perspective about what needs to be refrigerated. Paprika? chili powder? hot sauce? olive oil!?! peanut butter but not jam? soy sauce?

                  I think it's a generational thing. because while the people I'm referring to go overboard on the refrigeration, they also turn a blind eye to the date unless it's something like horseradish, which I don't think goes bad, just neutral. now the 4 year-old long-opened pickled herring I tossed when they weren't looking.

                  1. re: hill food

                    I think the refrigeration of products is generational, but can also depend on where you live. I used to live in a very remote place in the far north of Australia where for at least 6 months of the year the temperature was 45 degrees (113 degrees Farenheit) and 99% humidity. Just about everything required refrigeration as the combined heat and humidity spoiled everything really quickly and not to mention the wide variety of tropical critters that got into EVERYTHING if you left it out. I live in a far more moderate part of the world now and it's possible to just keep most things in the cupboard.

                    Ever since I did a bit of microbiology and understood a bit more about bacteria I started to care even less about refrigerating everything and checking expiry dates. It really is a look and sniff test for me. I should also mention we are rarely unwell in our household and indeed my son gets sick far less often than most kids, so it can't all be that bad.

                    1. re: TheHuntress

                      I truly believe exposure fosters resistance (otherwise how in the world was the use of yeast learned) I don't want to send anyone into anaphylactic (sp?) shock, so I do take real allergies seriously, but eggs or milk a few days past the sell by date?

                      1. re: hill food

                        Exposure absolutely fosters resistance - otherwise we wouldn't bother with vaccinating children. Personally I would rather see better hand hygeine practices as most gastro infections are transmitted by poor hand washing, not direct 'food poisoning'. There are only a few foods I am genuinely wary of - for instance cooked and cooled rice - I very rarely order fried rice or dishes whereby the rice has to be precooked, and obviously if I'm feeding other people I am far more careful (they may not have the same cast iron resistance). But for the family if it looks ok, smells ok and tastes ok, well it is ok.

                          1. re: plantainchips

                            Well there is a particular bacterial spore (I don't have my microbiology books to hand so I can't specify which one I'm afraid) that has to be heated to a ridiculous temperature to render it inactive - beyond a temperature that can be achieved in the average home kitchen. The bacterial spore itself is not harmful and the cooked rice is fine, but rice that has cooled very quickly becomes a perfect host for the spores to germinate bacteria very quickly - an infectious load can grow within a couple of hours. So things like rice salads at picnics and fried rice can be a bit risky. I will eat cooked and cooled rice if I make it myself, or can be certain how it has been stored, but if you rock up to a bbq and I don't know how long the rice salad has been sitting out for I won't be touching it.

                            1. re: TheHuntress

                              Yikes.. so it can go bad in just a few hours? Is that only if it cools too quickly though? I usually leave cooked rice on the counter until it's cool enough to be put in the fridge..

                              1. re: plantainchips

                                That's fine, you can cook it, leave it out to cool and then put it in the fridge - it doesn't take hours and hours to cool rice. It's more the fact that the already chilled rice comes up to a bacteria-friendly temperature - think of last nights leftover steamed rice in a Chinese restaurant sitting on a countertop waiting to be used up for tonights fried rice. I'm sure I'm a bit crazy for caring so much, but then I don't know a single microbiologist who orders fried rice - they will always get steamed rice LOL

                                1. re: TheHuntress

                                  Ok, I usually get steamed anyway cos fried rice is too salty with other dishes.. but rice is definitely not one of the things that comes to mind first when you think 'food poisoning'!

                                  1. re: plantainchips

                                    Yeah, you wouldn't think so, but it is one of the worst culprits.

                              2. re: TheHuntress

                                You're thinking of Staphylococcus aureus. The bacteria don't make you sick, but a toxin the produce does, and it's very heat stable. http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/foo...

                                I'll preface the rest of this by saying I used to be a food safety trainer/inspector for a grocery chain- so if this stuff bores you, now would be the time to pass up this comment for the next.

                                IMO, properly washed hands are preferable to gloves. Many food handlers
                                completely dispense with good hand hygeine once they don gloves.

                                Rice is what's termed a "Potentially Hazardous Food", which just means it's a great medium for bacteria to multiply in. The moisture content and pH combine to produce an environment suitable for a bacterial reproductive orgy. If those bacteria happen to be pathogens, and the temp of the food is between 40 and 135 degrees F, their numbers reach "We're going to make you sicker than you ever dreamed was possible!" in a very short time, possibly as short a few hours.

                                Cooling the cooked rice in the fridge, uncovered till it's cold, goes a long way toward preventing trouble,, and keeps the rice from spoiling as quickly.

                                Not trying to be preachy here- my ketchup and mustard are stored in the cupboard (low enough pH to supredd bacterial growth) , and I liberally observe the five second rule when it comes to something tasty that has potential to tickle my tastebuds. Not for service to anyone else, mind you, just for me. My immune system, coincidentally, is about as uncompromised as one can be.

                                1. re: sccrash

                                  heh, luckily mine is overactive (eww skin, invasive, get rid of it) but kidding aside, I do have friends with immune issues.

                                  I tend to dump what little leftover rice I have, so is it ok to re-invent/redo rice? I suppose aranciato or risotto could be managed.

                                  1. re: sccrash

                                    heh, luckily mine is overactive (eww skin, invasive, get rid of it) but kidding aside, I do have friends with immune issues.

                                    I tend to dump what little leftover rice I have, so is it ok to re-invent/redo rice? I suppose aranciato or risotto could be managed.

                                    1. re: sccrash

                                      No, it's definitely not Staph. aureus I'm thinking of, rather Bacillus cereus. Staph. aureus is only an issue when improper hand hygeine is followed.

                                      I'm absolutely with you on the hand washing vs. gloves. Gloves are generally used to protect the person donning them rather than the consumer. The consumer is best protected by good hand hygeine.

                                      As I said previously I don't care too much about anything else and we're generally a pretty healthy household.

                                      1. re: TheHuntress

                                        Thanks for that- you are correct in saying cooked rice is the most common source of B. cereus enterotoxin. The two bacteria cause nearly identical symptoms, and are often misdiagnosed as each other. Still no excuse for my error, though.

                                        B.cereus can, however, be transferred to cooked rice by poor hand hygiene, as is the case with most foodborne illness pathogens. Though not resident on our skin like Staph, it can easily be picked up and passed along by hands.

                                        Any bacteria on the raw rice is eliminated as it cooks. It must be contaminated after that, which can happen easily if utensils, surfaces and hands aren't cleaned using good sanitary practices. Another source of potential contamination would be adding a B. cereus carrying ingredient to cooked rice in a dish that won't be further cooked, as in a rice salad.

                                        That said, avoiding temperature abuse is probably the most important factor in retaining the wholesomeness of rice. Listeria excepted, a cold bacterium is generally a well behaved bacterium.

                                        Outside a restaurant or institutional setting, I share your "...don't care too much about anything else..." attitude. I think it's a major factor in creating a healthy household.

                                        1. re: sccrash

                                          Well, as you would know people are immune to the pathogens that are resident within their household - so a bit more bacteria just means a bit more immmunity. All the bacteria that aren't resident within the home, but find their way in aren't problematic if you wash your hands. Simple. I swear hand washing is the answer to all the worlds problems :D

                                          1. re: sccrash

                                            Can I ask what are the general symptoms/duration of illness due to bacteria in cooked rice? (without going into too much detail..)

                                            1. re: plantainchips

                                              B. cereus can cause two types of illness. This is because the illness is caused by one of two enterotoxins produced by the bacteria, not the bacteria themselves. (A good reason not to mess with this bug- you can build immunity to bacteria, but not poison. Well, technically, perhaps you could at some point, but it would be a long, miserable road)
                                              Symptoms of poisoning by the first toxin mimic Staph: rapid (from I feel funny to full blown symptoms in five minutes) onset of symptoms 30 minutes to six hours after ingestion. Both ends of the GI tract are affected. This is bad because you are so, so sick, it's hard to lift your head or rear from your prone position on the floor to access the stool.
                                              Sorry, that's about as gentle as I can make it. On the bright side, symptoms are usually gone in less than 24 hours, ; in my experience the intense symptoms are gone in a few hours or less, then you just feel totally exhausted for a day or two.
                                              Illness from the other toxin has a more gradual onset which occurs six to fifteen hours after ingestion. Luckily, with this type you're not likely to upchuck, but will need to saty very close to the bathroom for as much as 24 hours. Expect cramping, nausea is possible.
                                              Not trying to be overreactive here- I would have eaten the C-Rations Passadumkeg refers to above without any qualms, but I don't mess with rice much.

                                              1. re: sccrash

                                                Nicely put. I'm completely with you, rice is just one of those things I don't mess with either. I would have no qualms eating the expired c-rations if my situation demanded it, but I would definitely pass up on the rice if I had any doubts of its origin, no matter how desperate I was.

                                2. re: hill food

                                  "eggs or milk a few days past the sell by date?"


                                  Yes, it was just last week or the week before that someone inquired about eggs a few days past date. By the time I got to the thread, the OP had tossed them. Oh, the humanity! (Or should I say, "Oh, the poultry"?)

                                  1. re: LauraGrace

                                    pity the poultry. that is sad, refrigerated eggs keep for months past the date, granted they lose flavor...

                      2. So....are you keeping it or throwing it out?

                        16 Replies
                          1. re: jeepgurl775

                            l have stuff in my cabinets, fridge, and freezer that l suspect is older than you, certainly older than my children. Wonderful goose fat from early 80's, fruitcakes from the 90's and a cheddar from the 70's. Thus scratch n sniff.

                            1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                              A bottle of SS Pierce cocktail orange slices w/ 1967 on the lid, a can of Carling Black Label beer that requires a can opener, a bottle of PBR that requiers a bottle opener and the coup de grace, an unopened case of Civil Defense Survial Bisquits dated 1963, all down in the cellar. We are slowly eating a case of honey from the 80's and feed out dog and the birds #10 cans of freese dried foods from the seventies, he types embarrassedly. (My MIL's horde.)

                              1. re: Passadumkeg

                                Damn, forgot the honey, some from the 60's, a lot from the 60's

                                1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                  keep it a few more centuries (millenia?) and maybe you'll have amber!

                                      1. re: Passadumkeg

                                        I'm reminded of when Sam and I joked over visiting Mediterranean shipwreck and hoisting amphora of 2000 year old garum.

                                        1. re: FoodFuser

                                          I SAW THAT!!! Kinda nasty, the time lapse of the fish going icky.

                                          1. re: bonbon780

                                            i dunno I'd try it on toast points. or ...something.

                                            now fess up FF is that a real story? but if you don't it's a nice idea. truth can be such an inconvenient and sometimes depressing thing.

                                            forget I asked.

                                            1. re: hill food

                                              Nothing but truth passes FoodFuser's lips
                                              though maybe a stumble or lapse or a lisp.


                                        2. re: Passadumkeg

                                          Thanks, I totally enjoyed that thread :)

                                          1. re: jeepgurl775

                                            We lovers of fish sauce
                                            should give sweet declarum
                                            of the gift of ferment
                                            that gives us the garum.

                                            1. re: FoodFuser

                                              Why did the Roman Empire perish? Garum in lead containers!

                                              1. re: Passadumkeg

                                                The corrosive hard nature of fermented fish sauce
                                                would strip the Pb if containers were lead
                                                The reason that Romies died was 'cause of their plumbing
                                                an empire gone crazy and soon became dead.

                                                As to the shipment of beautiful ferment
                                                of elixer once garum now known as fish sauce.
                                                it was shipped within vessels of graceful amphora
                                                Tall things with handles, constructed of clay.

                              2. Found a small squeeze jar of organic mustard in the fridge marked best before Aug 2010.. it smells ok so I'll probably give it a try.

                                In general though, I usually have a problem with too many condiments - I open a bottle for a recipe or craving, then don't touch it again for months.

                                In my fridge right now: ketchup, mayo, mustard, balsamic, rice and apple cider vinegars (I assume there shouldn't be a problem with these), harissa, pesto (have to use this quickly), TJ's general Tso, soyaki, 5-spice and sweet chili sauces, pomegranate molasses, samoosa chutney, minced ginger, chopped kaffir lime leaves, peri-peri sauce, black bean sauce and dumpling sauce. Some don't even have dates on them..

                                How do other chowhounds deal with wanting a variety of condiments on hand, but consuming them in time? The expiration dates are usually not very long to begin with.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: plantainchips

                                  some one can make oneself in the quantity you need, and there's no need to put vinegar in the fridge.

                                  1. re: plantainchips

                                    Dang, you do have a ton of condiments!!

                                    1. re: plantainchips

                                      with condiments, I keep them until one or more of the following has occurred:

                                      a) visible mold or other unidentifiable funk that you KNOW isn't part of the product.

                                      b) smell or expanding gases in the container

                                      c) I forgot when I bought or when I used it last

                                      d) realize that I didn't like whatever it was I used it in, so don't see it making a return booking

                                      Beyond that, it's pretty much fair game...and so far haven't had a problem.

                                    2. and the converse - we opened a new Half and Half at work today, sell by date March 6th to find it was off.
                                      The sniff and taste test works well for me.

                                      1. Maybe I'm foolish, but I don't worry too much about expired jams and condiments. With all that sugar and/or acid, I figure they are well preserved. I just smell and check for mold before deciding whether to toss.

                                        1. As kids (this would be the 1960s), we always kept Easter eggs on the counter for a good 7-10 days after Easter and ate 'em with no problems. Don't know why, but I'd probably not do that today. Maybe we're just becoming wimpier.

                                          1. There's a "Sell By", "Use By" and "Expiration Date" and there is usually alot of wiggle room and these dates are usually more of a guide for freshness or manufacturer release from liability.

                                            For most things I find a see and smell test is the best and this does include dairy. right now I have a quart of heavy cream with a 4/5 Sell By and it is just fine. With dairy the temp is a big deal--the cooler the better.

                                            Dry pastas last quite long too and I regret the years I'd throw a box out once the date was reached. I've found the dry Barilla Tortellini's are still fine a year after the exp date.

                                            With most things I think a "see and smell" test works fine.

                                            Cans? For some reason I just don't trust cans past their exp date and once a couple weeks past due--I trash it.

                                            I tend eat ice cream quickly so it doesn't spoil.

                                            1. This week I used expired greek yogurt (+10 days past date), mayo (+1 month past date) and heavy cream + 1 week past date). I live to tell this tale. I also live with the fact that my thrifty use of these expired foods will be well apparent when I weigh-in at WW on Monday.

                                              1. Do you ever have one of those cans where there's no expiry date, just a code? What do you do in those cases?

                                                5 Replies
                                                1. re: plantainchips

                                                  If you email the manufacturer they will tell you. I don't know why they don't just put a date on ?

                                                  1. re: jackzchow

                                                    That's what I thought I had heard, but I couldn't believe it has to be so inconvenient. What if I'm ready to make dinner and need to know NOW if that can of tomatoes can be made into chili or needs to be tossed?

                                                    Also, shouldn't the consumer know the expiration date, before buying that can in the supermarket?

                                                    What's the big secret anyway?

                                                  2. re: plantainchips

                                                    I don't buy them and I know our local food pantry doesn't accept them. I tried to donate some canned goods several years ago, and they tossed the ones with no expiry date. That's when I quit buying the ones that don't have a clear date.

                                                    1. re: Isolda

                                                      That seems like a good strategy. I need to check the can before buying in future. Still don't understand why they can't just use a date!

                                                      1. re: plantainchips

                                                        Yeah, it is a PIA that some use codes and not a date. Most canned goods I do buy have an expiration date and I usually adhere to that date. The coded ones are silly. I think today most use expiration dates and not codes.

                                                  3. My mother {(Depression-era child) AKA hoarder} asked me to open her Heinz ketchup in a glass jar. Noticing it was dark brown, I opened the garbage can instead.

                                                    1. Just finished some crackers and cheese.

                                                      Ritz Simply Socials, Wheat. Best by: 28 APR 2008 (noted this when tucking ziplocks of crackers back into the box -- was a freshly opened sleeve).

                                                      Thought this was leftover from the end-of-year holidays. Didn't realize it was probably holidays, 2007.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: DuchessNukem

                                                        as long as they didn't smell as though the fat had gone off, it's probably fine.

                                                      2. I was out of cereal and found a package of Nutrisystems granola, so I ate it. It was pretty bad. I looked at the package and it had a 2007 date on it. Not sure it it was the use by date or the packaging date. But still.

                                                        On the other hand, I suppose it didn't taste much worse than Nutrisystem breakfast on its best day.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: Shann

                                                          there is that!

                                                          It might have been the sweetener, too -- diet sodas and things made with aspartame start to taste pretty funky after the lifespan of the aspartame has passed.