Food Lasts A Lot Longer Than the Date On The Package

We’ve seen before that the three types of dates on food packaging (use-by, sell-by, best if used by) have nothing to do with how safe the food is, and that they’re just an indicator of quality. Now NPR wrote an article which sheds some light on how companies come up with those dates. There’s an outfit called The National Food Lab — which thinks its perfectly acceptable to call itself The NFL — that food companies hire to taste their aging food and rate it. As the food gets older, it starts to taste worse, so a yogurt company will look at the scores over time and say “ok, it looks like after five days, the scores have dropped 10%, so lets make that the sell-by date.”

 

After that date, the food might not taste quite as good as it did originally, but it will still taste perfectly fine. And if it’s been properly handled, it’s definitely not going to make you sick. Why? Because you have this thing called “the sense of smell” which makes you sick to your stomach before you even have a chance to put bad food in your mouth. If it’s spoiled, you’re not even going to want to eat it — so if that’s what you’re worried about, you can ignore the date on the package altogether.

In fact, even if you were to eat something spoiled — say milk or meat — it probably isn’t going to affect you that much. The outbreaks of food-borne illnesses usually arise from food that’s been improperly handled but is still well ahead of the date on the package, and looks and smells fine even though it’s riddled with salmonella or E. coli.

This is why freeganism and dumpster-diving exist: pretty much 100% of the 40% of our food that we throw away, is perfectly good. Canned foods, even though they have an expiration date, last for decades. So next time you’re cleaning out the fridge, give it a smell test: if it fails, throw it out; if it smells fine and tastes good, do your part for the environment and save it.

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From NPR

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