Posted on: April 21, 2020 at 7:46 pm

During this pandemic, we’re scrounging the back of our pantries. Some of us want to avoid going to the grocery stores as much as possible or are waiting for food deliveries to arrive. Whichever the case, don’t throw out the foods past their dates just yet; they may still be good to eat. It depends on the product and how it was stored.  

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 See, the dates are an estimate of how long the food would stay in its peak quality, but it may still be safe to eat afterward. (Baby formula is the exception. Its dates are federally regulated and should only be consumed beforehand.)  

First, it’s important to understand what the dates actually mean.  

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“Use by” dates are the food manufacturers’ recommendations on how long the food would be in its best quality. Eating it after the date should not be harmful. 

“Expiration” dates are for consumers to know how long the product will be considered fresh. After that, the food may go bad. It’s a rough guideline, and you can use your judgment to determine if the food is still good. 

“Sell by” dates are for stores to know how long to have this product on display. You can eat the product after that date but the quality and flavor have probably diminished. This date isn’t a matter of food safety. 

“Best by” dates also reflect quality, not food safety, and is a rough recommendation from the manufacturer. [1] 

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“Keep in mind that if a food item was/is not properly handled even before the labeled dates, it still may have a chance of being contaminated,” says Amanda A. Kostro Miller, RD, LDN. It is important that we store, cook, serve and put away food items in a safe manner to avoid contamination and foodborne illness.” 

Read: 10 Perennial Vegetables That Grow Back Every Year

Here are 11 Foods That Stay Good After Their Expiration Date 

1. Hard cheese     

Hard cheeses like Parmesan can still be edible even when they begin to show signs of aging. If the best-by-date passes, there may be white or blue-green mold forming on the surface. You can scrape off the mold, cut off the affected parts, and the rest of the cheese is good to eat. [2] 

“Hard cheeses have a low moisture content, which makes it harder for bacteria to grow as most bacteria prefer moist environments,” says Sofia Norton, RD, a registered dietitian at Kiss My Keto.   

2. Eggs    

Eggs are perishable items that can go bad as quickly as other animal foods, but their shelf life can be extended for a couple of days with proper handling. If they are kept in the fridge at 40 degrees Fahrenheit, they’ll stay good to eat for about three to four weeks after the packing date. [3] 

3. Granola and cereal     

Dry, processed foods contain little to no moisture which lowers their perishability, which makes them safe to eat one to three weeks past their expiration date. Dried fruit, chips, and crackers last a while for the same reason.   

4. Bread     

 Bread can last about a week past its expiration date, but keep an eye out for mold. Store the bread in a dry and cool environment anyway. To make the bread last longer, freeze it and it will keep for about three to six months. Over time it may lose its freshness and flavor but it will still be good to eat.   

5. Pasta     

The low moisture content of pasta can offset rancidity, whether it’s white or whole-wheat. Therefore, it’s safe to use about two years past its due date. Keep in mind that the quality will decrease over time. The same rule applies to dry rice and uncooked oats.   

6. Canned corn    

Canned corn is one of the longest-lasting foods available. It’s best-by-date is usually three or five years, but it can be safe to eat one to two years after that since the canning process kills the microorganisms that spoil food and there’s no oxygen to ruin the food.   

Beans, mushrooms, pasta sauce, chicken, chili, and fruit are other canned products that last a long time. The flavor will be affected as time passes but they should stay safe to eat. [4] 

7. Dry ingredients    

White flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and sugar fall under this category. [5] 

“Since there is no moisture in dry ingredients, they’re less susceptible to bacterial growth in general,” says Janilyn Hutchings, a certified food safety professional at State Food Safety. “Salt in particular never really goes bad because it doesn’t have the means to support bacterial growth and it’s often used as a preservative since it’s really good at preventing that growth. Don’t eat any dry ingredients that have an unnatural smell or signs of a pest infestation.”   

Read: This Is How Long Fresh Produce Will Last Before Going Bad

8. Milk    

Dairy milk can last up to a week past its expiration date, but usually only around 2-3 days. Sniff it before use to ensure it doesn’t smell sour. How the milk was processed can also affect how long it lasts past expiry. Pasteurized, UHT (Ultra High Temperature), and raw milk, all differ in terms of shelf life. For more info check this article out!  

9. Nuts    

Nuts don’t contain a lot of moisture, but due to their high-fat content, inspect the nuts before eating them if they’ve been in the pantry for a while. If they have a grassy or paint-like smell, look dark or oily, or if there’s water damage on the packaging, toss them out. Storing nuts in a cool dry place is always best if you have room in your fridge store them there. If not a cool dark cupboard will suffice.  

10. Root vegetables    

 Root vegetables like beets, carrots, and parsnips can last for several weeks without any negative effects on their taste. [6] 

“In general, the fresher the food and the more water and oil content it contains, the quicker it will spoil. That’s because moisture breeds microorganisms and oils contain fats that oxidize when exposed to heat, light, and air that can lead to rancidity,” says Jennifer Kaplan, an Instructor at the Culinary Institute of America.   

11. Honey   

Honey never goes bad. It’s a low-moisture, acidic, has high sugar, and even contains hydrogen peroxide. All in all its a very unfavorable environment for most microbes. So, if the honey is sealed properly and stored in a dry environment, it will last forever.    

How to Tell When a Food Goes Bad   

“When in doubt, use your senses of sight, feel, and smell to check if food has gone bad. If it smells off, feels off, and looks off, chances are it is,” Norton says. “For example, spoiled milk will have an unpleasantly sour or even putrid smell. Meat that has a pungent, ammonia-type smell, that’s developing a green hue and is slimy is also bad.”  

Discoloration or mold in vegetables and fruits are a sign of rancidity.   

Additionally, don’t consume canned goods if:
– They’re dented or bulging
– If the seal is broken,
– If streaks of dried food are coming from the top, or
– If the food inside smells off,
– If it has an unnatural color or foamy/cotton-like mold on top  

“Foods tend to display very apparent signs of spoilage: mold, foul odor, discoloration, and literal breakdown of structural integrity,” says Devon Golem Ph.D., RD. “A best practice is to mark the date of opening any product and then refer to FDA information such as the FoodKeeper app to decide whether or not to discard a food product.” [7] 

Keep Reading: 10 Hacks to Keep Your Produce Fresh

[1] The U.S. Food and Drug Administration: FSIS. Food Product Dating. https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/food-labeling/food-product-dating/food-product-dating Last Modified October 2, 2019 

[2] Zoe Miller. 15 foods you can eat past their expiration dates. Insider. https://www.insider.com/foods-you-can-ignore-expiration-dates-2018-11#leafy-greens-including-bagged-salads-can-be-revived-with-ice-water-if-they-begin-to-wilt-7 March 16, 2020 

[3] Star Lawrence. Do Food Expiration Dates Really Matter? WebMD https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/features/do-food-expiration-dates-matter#1 

[4] Katie Jackson. Food myths debunked: When do canned foods really expire?Today. https://www.today.com/food/when-do-canned-foods-really-expire-t119977 

[5] Linda Giuca. Cupboard check: How to tell when good food has gone bad. Chicago Tribune. https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-xpm-2007-02-21-0702200294-story.html February 21, 2007 

[6] Dana Leigh Smith. 7 Vegetables That Stay Fresh for Month. Time. https://time.com/4217330/vegetable-guide/ February 16, 2016 

[7] Samantha Leffler. 13 Foods That Are Still Safe to Eat After the Expiration Date. Eat This, Not That. https://www.eatthis.com/foods-safe-to-eat-after-expiration-date/ April 6, 2020 

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Sarah Schafer
Founder of The Creative Palate
Sarah is a baker, cook, author, and blogger living in Toronto. She believes that food is the best method of healing and a classic way of bringing people together. In her spare time, Sarah does yoga, reads cookbooks, writes stories, and finds ways to make any type of food in her blender. Her blog The Creative Palate shares the nutrition and imagination of her recipes for others embarking on their journey to wellbeing.

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