Don't throw out that food

expiry date

We're going to be a little contrarian today. There's been a lot of good, sound advice on the web about starting the new year on a strong foot, and some consistent recommendations are to clean out your pantry, refresh your spices, and organize your refrigerator. But in the midst of these suggestions we found this interesting note from NPR on expiry dates, questioning whether adhering to expiry dates means you may be throwing out good food.

In Don't Fear That Expired Food,  Dan Charles writes, "Those 'sell by' dates are there to protect the reputation of the food. They have very little to do with food safety. If you're worried whether food is still OK to eat, just smell it."

As he goes on to explain, there is an organization called the National Food Lab ("NFL") which tests expiry dates. And this organization confirms that while expiry dates may indicate that there has been some flavor compromised, they rarely have to do with food safety. "That's because it's not the food that sat on the shelf too long that makes you sick, Ruff says. It's the food that got contaminated with salmonella or listeria bacteria, or disease-causing strains of  E. coli. And that food might not smell bad as it might have arrived in the store only yesterday."

So why are there expiry dates? It's because companies don't want you eating foods with compromised flavor in the fear that you won't buy the item again. So feel free to throw out expired food for flavor reasons, but if you're reluctant, try the sniff test. 

1 Comment

  • RaySadler  on  1/8/2013 at 8:18 AM

    A breath of common sense on this subject - how ever did we manage before BBE dates? Just eaten a smoked pork sausage BBE 18/12/12 - perfect! Ray S

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