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How to Gauge the Safety of Your Food


It’s two o’clock in the afternoon and, suddenly, your stomach begins to growl. You get up and head to the fridge in hope of finding something tasty to snack on. After a brief scan, you spot one last container of strawberry yogurt and silently rejoice. It’s snack time! And then, you see the expiration date- it was four days ago. Your heart sinks a little bit. You open the container and sniff it. It smells ok. You glance at the calendar again to make sure your math was correct. You look at the yogurt. It looks ok. So, the pressing question is, of course, do you eat it? What does an expiration date really mean? And when is it safe to eat “expired” food?

It turns out that the packaging terminology is something to pay attention to- “use by” dates and expiration dates differ from “best if used by” or “sell by” dates. If it’s slightly past “best if used by” dates, chances are that it’s safe to eat. However, expiration dates are safety indicators and some foods are generally best to toss if they’ve passed these dates. Here are four foods that you should never eat once they’re past their expiration dates:

#1: Mixed Greens

Regardless of how many times they were washed, mixed greens have a fairly short shelf life and should be consumed within one to two days after you purchase them. If you can’t find an expiration date on the package, you can usually use visual cues to decide whether or not they’re still edible- any sliminess or discoloration means they should be tossed.

#2: Fresh Berries

Because berries can carry a parasite called cyclospora, it is crucial that you wash them before consuming them and don’t use them past their expiration date. Even if they haven’t reached their expiration date and you notice them breaking down, it’s probably best to not eat them.

#3: Deli Meats

Even if it looks and smells fine, deli meat should never be eaten past its expiration date. Cold cuts carry the risk of listeria, which can grow and contaminate food in cold temperatures (like the refrigerator).

#4: Raw Chicken

A recent survey found that 97% of chicken breasts sold in stored were contaminated with bacteria. This is partially due to how chickens are raised and has brought up significant concerns regarding antibiotic-resistant bacteria. If your chicken has reached its expiration date, toss it. It’s not worth the risk.


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Used under Creative Commons Licensing courtesy of Karl Baron

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