Maybe it’s the miser in me, which was passed down through a few generations of Scotch-Irish ancestry, but I’m one of those people who knowingly keep food well past their listed “best if used by” or expiration date. Being a conspiracy theorist doesn’t help either.
I probably watched too much “X-Files” in college, but I can’t help but think seemingly arbitrary dates stamped onto a bottle of ketchup or a can of peaches are just part of the Illuminati’s grand plan to keep food companies in business, and rule the world in the process.
Instead of believing everything I read on a box of cereal or bag of chips, I prefer to use my senses when it comes on deciding if something in my fridge or cabinet is ready for the trash. I regularly tempt fate by drinking milk that’s a week or more past the date on the carton (after it passes the smell test, of course), or keeping condiments in the refrigerator for years. Full disclosure: If I ever invite you over for meat loaf, you should know the ketchup I use in the recipe is leftover from a party more than several summers ago.
If I seem smug, it’s because after all these years of arguing this point with those people who pour perfectly good milk down the drain the day before the expiration date, I am finally vindicated. In this article over at The Atlantic’s website, I get validation that the government is behind the whole thing:
“…even the Food and Drug Administration approves of outdated fare. The government agency decided that expiration dates are simply an indication of optimum quality as deemed by the manufacturer. ‘Foods can remain safe to consume for some time beyond sell-by and even use-by dates provided they are handled and stored properly,’ says Dr. Ted Labuza, a professor of food science at the University of Minnesota. For fresh produce and refrigerated foods this means storage at or below 41 degrees Fahrenheit. Canned foods and shelf-stable goods like salad dressings, Labuza adds, can be consumed for years beyond their expiration dates.”
Now, I’ve been known to say that the best ingredients make the best dishes, and I firmly believe this when talking about fresh fruits, vegetables, and protein. But when it comes to canned or bottled goods, I say born-on dating doesn’t matter. How about you? Do you go by manufacturer’s dating, or do you trust your own instincts instead?