Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Truth About Expiration Dates.

So while visiting my southern IL family for my friend's baby shower, I decided to make "mom" some breakfast, thinking I was going to make some eggs and pancakes for her since she has housed me during my visit. While I was prepping the pancake batter, I asked her one simple question: "Mom, are the eggs in the fridge still good?" to which she responded "I think so? Oh you girls and your expiration dates!"

Whaaaaaaaaaaa? That statement led me to check every item that I had eaten already and whatever I had started to use to prep the breakfast. Turns out the eggs expired in July, the butter was good for the rest of this month and the oil that she put in my pan expired March 16....of 2007.

Now I can understand how food can sit in a cabinet for awhile and while you don't have a reason to use it you don't want to waste it so it just becomes a feature in your fridge or cabinet but whoa! What's even crazier is after I tell my friend what Mom said she goes on to tell that her father-in-law cleaned out his pantry and brought over food for her and the family- one of the items being a jar of cherries....that expired in 1988. Apparently he thought they were still good because they were not opened. (For all those wandering, she threw them away.)

All of this got me a-thinkin: when does food really expire? Of course there are "expires by"  and "sell by" dates but when is the real "throw-this-in-the-garbage-immediately!" date?

Here is what I found as per
  • Milk. Usually fine until a week after the "Sell By" date.
  • Eggs. OK for 3-5 weeks after you bring them home (assuming you bought them before the "sell by" date). VanLandingham says double-grade As will go down a grade in a week but still be perfectly edible.
  • Poultry and seafood. Cook or freeze this within a day or two.
  • Beef and pork. Cook or freeze within three to five days.
  • Canned goods. Highly acidic foods like tomato sauce can keep 18 months or more. Low-acid foods like canned green beans are probably risk-free for up to five years. "You do not want to put cans in a hot place like a crawl space or garage," Peggy VanLaanen, EdD, RD, a professor of food and nutrition at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas, tells WebMD. She suggests keeping canned and dry food at 50 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit in a dry, dark place. Humidity can be a factor in speeded-up deterioration. The FDA notes that taste, aroma, and appearance of food can change rapidly if the air conditioning fails in a home or warehouse. Obviously, cans bulging with bacteria growth should be discarded, no matter what the expiration date!
One great source to answer questions about expiration dates and shelf life is the website If you are curious how long food really last after the expiration date you can just visit the home page, type in the food that you are pondering about and not only will they cover any food that is relative to what you are asking but then you get a breakdown of how long the food will last in the fridge or in the freezer and tips how to make it last longer. Pretty cool huh?
StillTasty also helps to answer questions such as these:
All really good questions, especially for us moms who want to make sure that we don't make our children sick. I must say that after finding these sites I do feel a lot better about being so particular and picky!
*See mom, even though eggs might last for about a month you still gotta check the dates!*