Expired Food: What Is Ok to Eat and What Is Not

Jan, 09, 2017

When you know that almost 800 million people around the globe do not get enough to eat, and that poor nutrition kills 3.5 million children each year, it’s frustrating that about 40 percent of all food grown for humans around the world is wasted — as in thrown away. It is tragic and so unacceptable, and why we need to fight this very serious problem.

Many of us have an abundance of food available to usbut we are also exposed to all the media’s promotion of picture-perfect food. This makes us want to buy too much — and then we trash it once it’s less than perfect. Sometimes we also trash food because we think it has expired.

People who throw away food that has gone past its printed shelf life date do so out of fear that the food is contaminated and will make them sick. Unfortunately, these individuals, who make up 90% of consumers, are mistaken in this belief. I firmly contend that there needs to be more education regarding “sell-by” and “use-by” dates on packaged supermarket foods since both are merely advisory and don’t have much, if anything, to do with food safety.

The printed dates on these foods are there simply to inform the consumer of when the food will still taste best. Some of these dates are determined by taste tests, while others are just wild guesses. In fact, according to research, not a single food safety outbreak in the U.S. has been tied to food’s having been consumed past the printed date. Instead, outbreaks have been linked to pathogens present in food before or during processing, or from consumers storing the food improperly, such as leaving food in a hot car or not keeping it cold enough.

Watch this video about what you can eat what you should not:

What we need to realize is that 25% of our fresh water is used for growingfood that we throw away, which ends up being a huge waste of resources. That’s not the only way we are hurting our environment … when we throw away our food, it is sent to landfills where it decomposes and releases toxic methane into our already stressed atmosphere.

So, instead of throwing out an item of food because of its “best-by” date and immediately running to the store and buying something new, try to extend the life of your product. Your wallet — and the planet — will be much happier!

More information about how to know what expired foods are ok to eat or not:

Consumer Report

Food Safety News

Your Guide to Food Storage for Healthier Eating

Fredrika Syren

Fredrika Syren is an environmental activist and writer. In 2016, she founded the website Green-Mom.com where she shared her family’s journey of living zero waste. She lives in San Diego, California with her husband James and their children Bella, Noah, and Liam. Fredrika and her family were recently featured in the documentary Zero Time to Waste. Fredrika is also the author of Zero Waste for Families - A Practical Guidebook (which you can buy on this site)

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