Don't listen to expiration dates on food labels

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Don't listen to expiration dates on food labels

Each year, people throw away thousands of dollars worth of food. Most consumers use expiration dates as an indicator of food safety, but they aren't always what they seem.

According to The National Resource Defense Council, the 'sell by' dates do not indicate whether foods are safe to eat — it simply predicts how long an item should be kept in stock.

Other variations such as 'Use by' and 'Best by' typically means the date the manufacturer predicts the product has reached peak freshness. It does not indicate spoilage.

So When Does Food Actually Go Bad?

A good rule of thumb is to pay attention to when you purchased or opened the food, rather than what the packaging says.

Uncooked poultry
Raw chicken can be stored in a refrigerator for one to two days after purchase. You can keep chicken in the freezer for nine months.

You can keep all your eggs in the basket. You can store them for three to five weeks after purchase. If you freeze them, they can last up to a year.

Peanut butter
Once you open a jar of peanut butter, you can typically store it up to three to four months in the pantry.

Storing boxed chocolate in room temperature may last you six to nine months. Freezing your chocolate can last you up to 18 months.

This drink can usually last an additional week after the 'sell by' date. To be on the safe side smell your milk before drinking it. If the drink packs a sour smell or off-white color you're better off tossing it.

If you purchase commercially packaged yogurt, you can keep it for about one to two weeks after the 'sell by' date. Freezing yogurt can last you one to two months longer. Fish

Unopened salmon will last one to two days from the date of purchase, But if you freeze it day of purchase, you can squeeze out an additional two to three months for optimal taste. Wine

Once you pop the cork of white or red wines, you can store them in the fridge for an additional three to five days. Unopened red and white wine can last you up to three years.

No need to toss this item. This natural sweetener can last you a lifetime.

To learn more about food items you may want to stay aware of check out this:

10 things food safety experts won't touch
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10 things food safety experts won't touch

Sliced Lemons

"Many bars and restaurants serve a wedge of lemon or lime on the side of sodas, water or beer. I always ask for mine without it, or pull it off right away. I do not know who handled the lemon and if they washed their hands properly before slicing it." Toby Amidor, M.S., R.D., nutrition expert and author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen

Photo: Floortje/iStock

Raw Sprouts

"Despite the health benefits, I won't eat raw sprouts. I stay clear of any food with raw sprouts in it, because they have the propensity to cause foodborne illness just by their nature and also by how they are grown. Sprouts have been documented as being hosts for many foodborne-illness pathogens. The best conditions for sprouting also support the rapid growth of foodborne-illness pathogens if present in the seed. Recent foodborne-illness outbreaks associated with raw-sprouts consumption have included E. coli 0157, Salmonella and Listeria. I will consider eating sprouts, however, only if well cooked." — Daniel E. Archer, MPH, REHS, senior manager of food safety, workplace safety and environmental compliance for Stanford University Residence & Dining Enterprises (R&DE)

Photo: Handmadepictures/iStock

Undercooked Ground Meat

"We do not eat raw or undercooked ground meat of any kind at our house. All raw meat has bacteria on the surface. Some are harmless and beneficial in breaking down the muscle fibers, as takes place in the aging process. However, raw meat can also have bacteria that could be harmful if the meat is not handled and cooked properly. Since these bacteria live on the surface of the meat, a steak can be enjoyed medium rare — about 145 degrees F internal temperature — but ground meat should be fully cooked to 160 degrees Fahrenheit. This is because the grinding process could potentially introduce bacteria into the middle of the patty. This is true for all types of ground meat — including pork, poultry or beef — whether it is local, organic, grass-fed or ground by hand at your local butcher." — Dr. Mindy Brashears, director of the International Center for Food Industry Excellence and professor of food safety and public health at Texas Tech

Photo: Owen Franken/Getty Images

Raw Oysters

"Before I became a registered dietitian and learned about food safety, I loved eating raw oysters. Yum! But having learned about how risky they are I now only eat them thoroughly cooked. The culprit in raw oysters, Vibrio vulnificus bacteria, can be present even if they are harvested from non-polluted waters, and there is no way to detect it by sight or smell. Only heat can destroy the bacteria, so I only eat oysters that have been boiled or steamed until their shells are opened, or shucked oysters that have been fully cooked until they are opaque (milky white) and firm." — Mary Saucier Choate, M.S., RDN, L.D., manager of outreach and stakeholder engagement at the Partnership for Food Safety Education

Photo: Robert Kirk/iStock

Food from Bulk Bins

"Since I need to avoid gluten, I don't eat from bulk bins at supermarkets. Anyone with celiac disease, gluten sensitivity or a serious food allergy should do the same, due to the possibility of cross-contact because the food is not packaged and tongs are often shared between bins." Rachel Begun, M.S., RDN, culinary nutritionist and special-diets expert

Photo: Janine Lamontagne/iStock


"I see no reason to consume uncooked fish proteins. Well-seasoned and gently cooked, sauteed and steamed fish is nutritionally rich and food-safe! The goal for safe food consumption is to reduce and, when possible, eliminate any risk for foodborne illness. So when folks brag to me about eating sushi, I compare it to someone boasting about going through a red light. Sometimes nothing happens, but [other times] illness follows." — John A. Krakowski, M.A., RDN, CDN, FAND, food safety coach and trainer in Flanders, N.Y.

Photo: Alexander Spatari/Getty Images

Raw Milk

"Raw milk has been associated with numerous outbreaks over the past decade or two. Additionally, the threat from raw milk isn't even from one bacterium, but rather from many. It may be contaminated with Listeria, Salmonella, E. coli or Campylobacter. Pasteurization of milk began back in the late 1800s because of the association of raw milk with foodborne illness. It just isn't worth the risk!" Jennifer J. Quinlan, PhD, food microbiologist and associate professor at Drexel University

Photo: fotoedu/iStock

Packaged Lunch Meats

"From a food safety perspective, many consumers don't realize that once opened, the product needs to be consumed within three to five days and not the expiration/use-by date. There is potential for the growth of Listeria monocytogenes, which can cause listeriosis, and may lead to illness and in some cases be fatal. The groups at risk include pregnant women, older adults (age 65 and over) and those with weakened immune systems. The solution? Buy fresh meats from the deli, refrigerate at no higher than 40 degrees F and use within three to five days. For those populations at risk, heating the meat to steaming or 165 degrees Fahrenheit will reduce the risk potential." Susan M. Piergeorge, M.S., RDN, food and nutrition consultant and author of Boomer Be Well! Rebel Against Aging Through Food, Nutrition and Lifestyle

Photo: Authenticcreations/iStock


"While many people view potluck meals as a fun opportunity to enjoy a variety of foods prepared by others, I view them as a risky dining experience filled with hundreds of food safety mysteries. Was the food properly cooked, cooled, transported and reheated? What about the health or hygiene of the person making it? Did little Johnny with norovirus help Grandma make the cookies? Thanks for the invitation but I'll pass." — Ellen Steinberg, PhD, R.D., L.D., food safety specialist and president of the Georgia Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

Photo: Shiro Nosov/Getty Images


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