Can I Still Eat That? : Demystifying Expiry Dates and MoreNovember 18, 2014
Cleaning out of the pantry is like Indiana Jones the home edition. No weird traps or boulders at your heels, but there is a careful process in investigating unopened bags of chips, candy, and tightly-bottled goods. It comes down to the simple question, “Can I still eat that?” or a variation of “It says ‘best before’!”, and the brave, “It smells right to me.” If you have risked your stomach on a whim with any of those famous last words, there is a reason why you lived to tell the tale.
Local regulations apply when products are slapped with what they call open date markings, or popularly referred to as the expiration dates. There are two kinds of open date markings, the “Consume Before” date put on packages of fresh food products and perishables, and “Best Before” dates put on processed food products. For processed foods, it may still be consumed within a few weeks after the indicated date though the product may be subject to changes in appearance, color, texture, or even vitamin content. According to experts, the open-date marking is not so much for food safety, but as a way of informing consumers that the product is in top quality condition by that date.
While it is the manufacturers and producers who keep tabs on the average shelf life of their products, the Philippine Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also issues guidelines in the open-date marking of prepacked food. On the FDA’s end, their main concern is that the open date marking is displayed correctly and follows the month-day-year format. The real work in clearing and disposing of expired products from the shelves is up to the manufacturers, retailers, and distributors. But if in the event of a discrepancy, the FDA can intervene. Even in their regulation circular, FDA says, “The Best Before Date is the date that signifies the end of the period, under a stated storage condition beyond which quality attributes of the products will be expected to deteriorate. However, after this date, the product may still be satisfactory for human consumption and remain marketable.”
But how safe is safe? Here’s a run-down of some of your favorite food products and the latest date you can really enjoy them.
Milk can be consumed up until a week after the “Sell by” date. Just don’t leave an open box of milk out, and always remember to keep it refrigerated.
As long as eggs are stored correctly, with no cracks or damage, they can stay fresh for up until five weeks after buying them. It is also recommended that they are kept refrigerated, even frozen, so it lasts longer.
3. Canned Goods
There is no exact expiration date for canned goods. Some have pegged it at a year after manufacturing, some have put it at eighteen months. Make the most out of it by keeping it away from hot temperatures and in a cool, dry place.
According to Emily Broad Leib of Harvard Food Law & Policy Clinic for a Time Magazine article, cereal can last for close to a year. Dry cereal holds well as long as it is properly sealed and stored.
Deli meat can be consumed for up to two months when properly frozen, while beef stew can still be consumed for up to nine months as long as it is stored in the freezer.
Chocolate can last from two to four months if unrefrigerated, and to up to eight months if kept in the freezer. White spots found on old chocolate are not mold, but a side effect of fat melting then rising to the top called bloom. Don’t worry, it’s not deadly or poisonous!
7. Dry Pasta
An airtight container is key to keeping fresh pasta and retaining its flavor. When stored correctly, dry pasta can last for up to two years.