If you’re a grocery bargain hound like yours truly, then you already know what I’m about to tell you. Expiration dates are largely bogus. A frozen egg and bacon burrito doesn’t turn into green eggs and ham when the clock strikes midnight on the date stamped on the packaging.
According to a study done by shelflifeadvice.com that was recently published on progressivegrocer.com (and Facebook-pimped by Grocery Outlet), 76 percent of American consumers think food goes bad after the date printed on the package has passed.
Not so, says Joe Regenstein, professor of food science at Cornell University.
“Food scientists agree that most foods, if stored properly, can be safely consumed for days or even weeks past the package date,” said Joe Regenstein, professor of food science at Cornell University and a member of the ShelfLifeAdvice.com Board of Advisors. “The dates on food packages are very conservative; if the product was stored properly, it should last well beyond the date on the package.”
Some of the more surprising stats mentioned: eggs, when refrigerated, should last at least three to five weeks after the expiration date, while milk doesn’t have an “off flavor” until up to five days after the expiration date. And even those off flavors, said Clair Hicks, professor of food science at the University of Kentucky, won’t kill ya:
“When off flavors can be detected, the off flavors are produced by [harmless] bacteria, so even this milk could be consumed without making one sick.”
Much of the food that we trash—more than 40 percent or 29 million tons, according to the article—could be saved if folks learned to interpret expiration dates more liberally. Want to expand your shelf life knowledge? Head to shelflifeadvice.com and check out their exhaustive list of products and their more realistic refrigerated vs. frozen expiration dates. Who knew diet carbonated soft drinks have a shorter shelf life (three to four months) than regular soft drinks (six to nine months)?