Have you been planning to cook chicken and dumplings for dinner tonight, only to realize that the chicken breast you just placed on the cutting board expired two days ago? For most of us, it is not uncommon to grab something out of the refrigerator only to discover it has passed its expiration date. Should you throw it away or is it still safe to eat? Let’s look at food expiration dates, particularly what they really mean, as well as food safety.
The “sell by” date is actually intended more for the seller than the consumer. If you have refrigerated foods, they are still safe to use for a couple of days after the date has passed. Frozen foods, however, however, can be stored and eaten for up to three months after the “sell by” date has passed.
The “use by” date is simply intended to guarantee consistent food quality. However, many of these foods will last much longer than the “use by” date, depending on how the food is stored and handles. For example, canned foods tend to be good for years if they are kept at a relatively constant temperature. Foods that have a higher acid content, such as canned pineapple, are typically good for a year or slightly longer after the “use by” date.
There are two exceptions to this rule. Baby food and infant formula should not be served after the “use by” date.
There are some foods that include the label “use or freeze by.” This just means that you should freeze them if you plan to keep them for a significant period of time past that date. They can last for years this way.
It is important to note that the risk of developing a food borne illness increases when a food has passed its expiration date, particularly if they are not stored properly. Practice the following habits to ensure that your foods last safely up to, and past, the expiration date.
Temperature is critical. Foods should be refrigerated at 40⁰F immediately. In addition, they should never be left out of the fridge for more than two hours.
Keep prep and storage areas, as well as cutting boards, clean.
Keep raw foods and ready-to-eat foods separated in the refrigerator.
If anyone in your home is immune compromised, never allow them to eat foods past the “use by” date because they are at a higher risk of developing a food borne illness.
If you or someone you know loves to cook, consider purchasing one of the high quality wooden cutting boards at Cutting Board USA to add to their collection of kitchen equipment. They offer a wide variety of unique design options that are sure to match any kitchen design scheme. Best of all, they offer customized wood cutting boards that can be laser engraved with any image, text, or logo. With the holidays right around the corner, now is the perfect time to purchase an awesome gift that the recipient will love and get use out of for years to come.