A common college student scenario: Wake up at about 11 a.m. Realize you missed your 8 a.m. class. Go to the fridge to see if there is any more of that left over pizza to eat for breakfast. Upon opening the fridge the only two things you see are beer and milk. You bypass the beer and grab the milk to perform the “sniff test.” Even though the gallon expired four days ago it smells alright.
Would you drink it? Put it in your cereal? Try to cook something with it?
It is a dilemma that many people face, whether they are tight on grocery funds or they don’t like to waste food. When is it safe and healthy to eat food past the expiration date?
It’s hard for me to waste food, but I have always been the kind of person who will not eat any meat or dairy products when it is past the expiration date.
Living by myself, I often find it hard to finish milk or bread before it is expired (why don’t they sell half loafs?). I would be more willing to eat expired bread, but I draw the line when the bread is dry to the point of crunchy.
I know many people who will only perform the “sniff test” on dairy products. If it smells alright, it should be safe to drink, right?
Well, I did some of my own sniffing around to find out exactly what the expiration date on food means.
After spending some time doing a Google search, several different health blogs and health websites said that the expiration date on food is found before any food can be approved by the FDA and put on the market.
A team of scientists, or whomever, stands around a table wearing lab coats, holding clip-boards, and looking into microscopes to see how fast the bacteria grows on certain foods.
They find out when the point of bacteria growth becomes too high for human bodies to fight off the germs. Then they set the expiration date a few days before that point to be safe.
So while it may be okay to drink that milk a few days past the expiration date, it should be done with caution.
It is neither safe nor healthy to consume something that will give you food poisoning.
When it comes to raw meat, similar date-labeling rules apply. However, the bacteria in meat or eggs can be very harmful and cause diseases.
Again, I would advise being safe rather than sorry. And remember to watch out for unlikely places such as cooking utensils, or a dirty counter top. Always wash your hands after handling meat or eggs.
One of the biggest culprits of eating raw eggs: cookie dough. My brother got salmonella from eating cookie dough as a child; it seemed like a very unpleasant experience to go through.
Really, the best way you can enjoy the food you purchase and not let any go to waste is make a meal-plan before you go to the grocery store. You could plan your meals for the week, then make a list of things you’ll need. Try to remember how you will use leftover ingredients so nothing is left unused.
Not only will it help you eat all the food you buy, but it can also help you have a healthy, balanced diet.