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Food’s “Sell By” Date Isn’t the Same as the Throw Away Date

(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Jenny and I are always very cautious when it comes to eating leftovers or food if its “sell by” date has passed.  Why take the chance of getting sick, right?  Just the other day I discovered yogurt in the refrigerator that had “expired” according to the date on the box.  Even though the yogurt was “unsafe,” I ate one anyway and found out that it was just fine.  So is the date on the box or bottle the absolute “do not eat” date?  For the most part, it’s not.  Consider this…

Harvard Law School and the Natural Resources Defense Council created a report in 2013 that says ninety-one percent of Americans throw their food away prematurely due to confusion over food dating.  So what’s this mean to you and me?  Are we throwing away food that we could otherwise be eating?

(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Knowledge and experience count for a lot when it comes to food safety, but still, sometimes we error on the side of caution.  Take cereal, for example…there’s a “Best Before” date on the box, but it’s an estimate (and a conservative one at that) of peak quality that was set by the makers of the cereal.  That date is not an expiration date.  It’s simply a guideline to go by regarding the freshness and quality of the cereal.  In reality, cereal can last months longer if it’s left sealed or if the inner bag is refolded tightly.

How about eggs?  Many country folk say that country eggs last longer than the store bought eggs, but even then, the “sell by” date is only to help retailers manage the placement of the eggs on the shelves.  When refrigerated, eggs can stay fresh for 3 to 5 weeks.

When it comes to deli meat, the best test of freshness is how it looks and how it smells, not the “sell by” date.  if the meat smells fine and it doesn’t have a slimy look to it, it’s still good.  If you still have any hesitation, taste just a very small bite.

Bread can be kept fresh long past its “best by” date by keeping it in the refrigerator.  You can expect to have bread that’s still good up to two weeks after the “best by” date.

I still think it’s best, when it comes to food, to be cautious and not take chances, but I am going to reexamine my quickness to throw things out.  If you and I are throwing out good food, we’re throwing our money away…and who can afford to do that these days?

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