We know that paying attention to the dates on food items is important, and that manufactures provide these dates to tell consumers about quality and, in some cases, food safety. In this last Food Label Dates post, we will talk about determining if or when to throw out food items.
First, let’s ask an important question: Are foods safe to eat after the date on the label has passed?
Well, it depends.
For shelf-stable foods, like cereals and canned goods, quality starts to diminish after the date on the label has passed, but it still can be safe to eat. For foods that are not not shelf-stable, like meats, breads and dairy products, pay attention to the “sell by” date. Meats and breads can be frozen and used months later. Dairy products, which have been refrigerated properly, can be consumed for a short time after the sell-by date.
Remember, though, DO NOT use Infant formula past its use-by date because its nutritional value diminishes quickly, and should be discarded if the date has passed.
As consumers, we need to take responsibility for ourselves and our families to determine when an item is unsafe to consume.
One way to do this is to organize your pantry, which will help you make sure you use only fresh foods.
A good way to start your organizing is to remember the FIFO rule: first in, first out. If you follow this system, you won’t find that can from 2010 lingering in the back of your pantry.
The same goes for your refrigerator! Check all the trays and shelves, bins and niches. Foods have a way of sliding out of our line of sight, and sticking around far long than they should. Anything purchased a while ago might be spoiling and contaminating nearby foods. Spoiled foods will develop an odor, and have diminished flavor and texture with naturally occurring spoiling bacteria. If a food is spoiled, it should not be eaten; throw it out.
Go one step further, and clean the shelves, bins and trays in your refrigerator on a regular basis, or sooner if you pulled something spoiled from an area.
Suffering through a foodborne illness is something you don’t want to expose yourself or your family through. Remember, if in doubt, throw it out.
So, happy sorting and happy organizing! You’ll feel better and your family will trust what’s in the pantry and refrigerator.
Find all posts in this series at https://blogs.ifas.ufl.edu/sarasotaco/tag/foodlabeldates/.