I am seeing alot of expired food products in the stores. Some of them are as much as 7 or 8 months expired. Are these products safe to use? What, if any, is the rule where you should never purchase these items?
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As someone in the business of distributing to grocery stores, I'd seriously caution you against buying any product that is past its expiration date--especially months past. Use by dates are different lengths of time for different products and they're there to tell the stores when to pull them. A week past, you're probably just fine for dry goods; they may just be a bit stale. But I wouldn't risk anything else. It sounds as if you may want to rethink where you shop for food. Grocery stores with a lot of expired products on their shelves aren't doing a good job rotating their stock. Even stock that isn't officially expired yet may have been on the shelves longer than most well-run grocery stores.
Chris is a trusted source on General Cooking
But Syronai, are those sell by and use by dates driven by food safety or are they just a freshness measure or sometimes something else? My understanding is that most date labeling is not safety related. Do you or does anyone else have have a good reference for us?
I wouldn't buy expired products and even if I would,I couldn't.Maybe it did not make sense to you,so let me explain:in Brazil,where I live,stores are required by law to withdraw expired food and medicine from shelves,or they have to pay a fine and/or the store is shut until it gets done...We don't know what the f... happens inside the can at midnight when expiration date comes up,but if there's a law,something must be going on there!Take care.
Cynthia is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.
Expiration dates are definitely food-safety related. Granted some have some leeway, but 7-8 months out is a long time. If a store isn't rotating it's stock well, and clearly this one isn't, I would wonder what other food safety limits are they pushing.
In my experience, "sell by" dates are when stores are supposed to have pulled the products from the shelves. "Use by" dates are safety related. I'll push a "sell by" date a few days past, but I never push a "use by" date. I give dry goods some leeway--pasta, rice, coffee, dry beans, and such--but I'll throw even canned goods after they've expired. Manufacturers have a reason they put "use by" and expiration dates on their products. They don't want their customers getting sick any more than you want to be sick.
I work for a coffee company and we pull our coffee from the stores a full month before our "sell by" dates because we're concerned that our customers have the freshest and best possible experience with our coffees. We donate the coffee we buy back from the stores to local food banks. Since it's just coffee, it's perfectly safe to drink even after it's officially expired. But when the occasional bag of coffee falls behind a shelf in a store and we don't find it for months, I throw it away. It's probably just stale, but even with coffee there are oils present in the beans that go rancid after enough time. It probably wouldn't make you sick, but it'd be the worst coffee you ever tasted!
Syronai delineates perfectly between sell by and use by dates. Not all products, especially dry good (pastas, rice) have use by dates. But that doesn't mean that 7 to 8 months later they're still as good as on the sell by date. Dry goods only get drier, though I have read that aged rice actually gets better with time. The fresher the product, the less time there tends to be between sell by and use by dates. What sort of grocery items are you seeing with long-expired sell by dates?
Growing up, we thought that canned food was perfect until opened; now it is dated? There are many factors here: the important safety factors, the aesthetic factor and the marketing factor. We need to be informed shoppers and consumers to evaluate these issues.
Of course, when food is packaged, the packaging has to be intact. I just had a can of poppy seed filling (lekvar) leak on my shelf (intact when I bought it) -- obviously, that's a clear messge, beware!
This is one of the few countries in the civilized world that has no law regulating expiration dates on products, expect milk. It is totally up to the discretion of the producer of said product to determine the expiration. Some countries are even getting rid of the "Best By" or "Sell By" and strictly going with a true food safety expiration date, such as "Use By". With that said, I would not consume or purchase any product after stated date on the package, because, one would hope, that the manufacturer has done a science based study to determine the food safety live of the product and that date is there for a reason. The only problem with most of these studies, is shelf life is a time temperature thing, meaning the higher the temperature, the shorter the shelf life. Who knows if any product has been handled correctly through the distribution channel. Pathogens grow exponentially, so one little bug in the product at just the right temp could go mad. Also, I think most manufacturers put too long a shelf life on products. . . the longer the product is on the shelf, the greater the risk of a potential food safety issue. Hence all the chemicals to preserve.
Safety issues aside, why patronize stores that expect you to pay full price for old, expired stock? As Syronai suggested -- shop elsewhere!
I have been the owner of a general store. Selling all grocery and produce items as well as having a kitchen serving foods to go including pizza. I also distributed wholesale produce to eight counties.
The date system can be highly confusing and in some instances down right stupid.
let me try to explain.
To start with do you have any idea or reason why water which is millions of years old has to be dated when it is put in a bottle? Providing the bottle is clean of coarse.
Here are some tips to help decide whether to eat the food.
In some cases the food still may be safe; but the quality no longer may be what we want.
Look for one of these two types of dating information on the food:
OPEN DATING gives an actual date instead of a code. It is used mainly on perishable foods such as meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products. It helps the store know when to pull these food from shelves. It also can help consumers purchase a food at its best quality.
CLOSED or CODED DATING may appear on more shelf-stable foods, such as cans and boxes.
Except for infant formula and some baby food, food product labeling is not required by federal government regulations. Additional dating of foods is required by some states.
There are three types of open dating where an actual calendar date is displayed. .
USE-BY DATE: the last date recommended for the use of the product while at peak quality. The date has been determined by the manufacturer.
WHAT TO DO: The best policy is to use the product by this date.
SELL-BY DATE: tells the store how long to display the product for sale. You should buy the product before the date expires.
WHAT TO DO: How long the food is safe to eat and/or maintains a high quality after this date depends on the food.
NOTE: Once a food is opened, it frequently needs to be used more quickly than it would if it remained unopened.
BEST IF USED BY (OR BEFORE) DATE: recommended for best flavor or quality. It is not a purchase or safety date.
WHAT TO DO: If possible, contact the company for more information -- . The food still may be safe. Yet, who wants to eat (or have their cooking ability judged by!) a baked product made from a mix where the leavening ingredients were too old to make the food rise. Or, where the fat in a food -- such as nuts - -turned rancid over time. One cake company hotline said its cake mix still should taste good for three months past the label date; however, it would be best to discard the accompanying nuts which no longer may be at peak flavor.
CLOSED OR CODED DATING
CLOSED OR CODED DATES are packing numbers for use by the manufacturer. However, there is no standardized coding system used for foods. It may be necessary to call, write or visit the Web site of the company to help determine whether these foods are safe and/or of best quality to eat.
For month coding, if a number is used, numbers 1 through 9 represent January through September, and letters O for October, N for November and D for December. If letters are used, A=January and L=December, unless otherwise noted. For year coding, 8=1998; 9=1999; 0=2000; 1=2001; 2=2002, etc
For a matter of fact HONEY is one product that has never been found to not be good to use. Honey has been found in piramids over two thousand years old and still good. SO WHY PUT A DATE ON HONEY?
Common sense needs to be put to use. Perishable foods such as meat, milk, eggs ETC. are one thing, but it is foolish to throw out a box of pasta because it is a couple of months over the expiration date.
If a store near you is offering you to save a few bucks on some foods after the date tell them thanks!
We have a store in our area that caters to out of date items and we shop there all the time.
HAVEN'T GOTTEN SICK YET but I don't eat mayo two years past the use by date.
Thanks to Whats His Face for all the good information.
On the issue of water, it's not the water that is the problem, it's the plastic bottles. The bottles deteriorate and 'zenoestrogens' migrate into the water. Now, that is something that I learned years ago, and all the problems with BPA have come to light since then, so there are far more problems with bottles tainting the water. Drink tap water, filtered if needed; drink from glass bottles or stainless steel; source clean water. People who go to a spring to collect water in plastic bottles (as people in this area do) are contaminating water from a pure source.
Rock on, susan g!
Susan you are almost correct, I believe the word you mean is Xenoestrogens.
Many consumers are unaware of the threat. Xeno is the Greek root word for foreign, and Estrogens are a class of female-defining hormones found in most living creatures.
Natural hormones are subtle, needing only minuscule concentrations to function. They are short living, and easily metabolized when their job is done. But Xenoestrogens are strong and long-lasting, resisting the liver's detoxification enzymes.
Most xenoestrogens are petroleum derivatives.
Hormones are fed to livestock raised in unnatural population densities, xenoestrogens are in all conventionally raised meat and dairy products. Estrogenic insecticides are applied directly to the animals, often automatically.
Pesticides are doused on vegetables and fruit many times in a growing season. Many are tested only very briefly before approval. Chemicals banned in one country return on imported products.PVC plumbing pipes, lawn weed-n-feed, DDT and PCB residues in soil, the list goes on.
Soft plastics, used for everything from food packaging to baby bottle nipples, contain estrogenic chemicals.
Plastic coatings, used to protect canned goods from heavy metal contamination, contain hormone like molecules. Plastic cookware, Teflon-lined pans, and kitchen storage gizmos, test positive for the xenos.
Plastic wrapped food, heated in a microwave oven, has some of the highest xenoestrogen levels.
Even in hospitals plastic is used everywhere. Natural latex rubber has caused its own set of problems, but plastic intravenous drip bags are next.
Tap water, treated to reduce bacteria, can contain numerous toxins, including xenoestrogens. This is widely known, so most people now drink water from plastic bottles. The big five gallon polycarbonate plastic bottles used for water coolers are especially high in bisphenol-A, a xenoestrogen.
A majority of U.S. homes constructed before 1988 have copper plumbing which leaches into the home's drinking water. Swimming pool chemicals often contain estrogen-raising copper sulfate.
Detergents, carpets, furniture, bug killers, and wall paneling outgass traces of xenoestrogens. Hot computers and other electronics outgas hormone mimics. Estrogenic detergent and fabric softener makes laundromats, freshly washed clothing, and dishwasher vapors so sexy.
Dry-cleaning chemicals are inhaled and absorbed through the skin. You guessed it: X-rated.
Xenoestrogenic chemicals soaking through our skin go directly to the tissues without passing through the liver for detoxification.
Some chemicals become estrogens after bacteria or enzymes in the body process them.
Chlorides, found in bleach, are associated with breast cancer.
Solvents, inhaled or absorbed through the skin from glues, paints, varnishes, cleaning fluids, and automotive leaks, often are estrogenic. Traces of xenoestrogens from solvents used to clean food processing equipment are in every processed food product.
Personal products are some of the worst xeno-estrogen carriers around. Lotions, sunscreens, shampoos, and makeup, and other cosmetics, may contain Methyl Paraben, a preservative.
There was even a special shampoo, marketed to black women, which deliberately contained "sexy" estrogenlike compounds. They got a real surprise after using it on their eight-year-old daughters!
While many of the xenoestrogen sources mentioned above are not airborne, several are.
Perfume, hair spray and room "air fresheners" are suspects. Nail polish and the solvents used as removers are loaded.
Indoor insect sprays are often estrogenic. Dishwasher, washer and dryer exhaust, and vapors from cleaning products float on the air.
Car exhaust, in everyone's air, contains xenoestrogens. Car interiors, where we spend 10%-plus of our time, are plastic vapor laden.
Waste incinerators and trash burning release airborne insecticide vapors and partially-burnt plastic.
I don't wish to alarm anyone but I figure it sort of foolish with all we are connected to in life every day to throw out a bottle of water because it is beyond it's expiration date.
There are a number of things you can do to protect you and your family. Here are a few things.
When they ask "Paper or Plastic?" at the grocery, take paper. Avoid soft plastic whenever possible. Don't buy anything in styrofoam cups. Infant and baby things should not be plastic, please breastfeed.
Organic, unrefined whole foods are no longer optional. Microwave less, and use glass cookware. Wash food before eating. Coffee is far from harmless.
Discard all pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides. Anything sprayed on the yard, the feet bring in.
Detergents of all kinds are hazardous to health, estrogenic or not. Solvents for cleaning are sooooo dangerous, have you looked at the janitor's cart in your school or office? A Canadian company makes "Nature Clean", a non toxic cleaner for personal and domestic use.
Consider every new purchase, whether a home, a car, carpeting, or household goods, as a vote for or against these invaders.
Filtered water is preferable to bottled for home consumption.
Use organic and "clean" cosmetics, made from rose petals and other natural ingredients.
Women look and smell better without hairspray, painted nails, and petrochemical derived scents of all kinds. Natural soaps with subtle traces of real flowers are much more attractive.
Guys, I know some of you are using male-enhancing formulas to increase virility and build muscle. Do youreally want high estrogen levels doing the reverse?
OK, I'll get off my soap box. All I started to do was try to answer the question about dates.
As the water is concerned with everything else around us, it just seems like one person buying a car that gets 32 MPG instead of one that gets 25 MPG and thinking that they have just stopped air pollution
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