Are expired foods safe?

Woman Checking Sell By Date On Salad Bag In Refrigerator

Everyone’s been there. The expiration date on that jar of mayonnaise or box of pasta is past due, but you really don’t want to run to the grocery store while you’re in the middle of cooking dinner.  Many people will sniff, poke and taste test food to see if it’s “good,” none of which are the approved way of checking for freshness. So how do you know if your expired foods are safe to eat?

Learn what the dates actually mean.

If you see the term “expiration date,” it means the food should have been consumed before this date. Often there will be a “sell by” date on the label, indicating to the store how long the product should be for sale. If you see a “best if used by (or before)” date, this refers to quality, but not safety and is recommended for best flavor.

But are foods safe to consume?

There are a few basic rules regarding when food is still safe to eat. Keep the following rules in mind the next time you’re unsure whether or not to eat those eggs or drink that milk.

  • Milk is safe to consume for a week after the “sell by” date.
  • Assuming you bought eggs by the “sell by” date, they are OK to eat for up to 5 weeks after you’ve brought them home.
  • Poultry and seafood should be cooked or frozen within two days of purchase.
  • Beef and pork need to be cooked or frozen within five days of being bought.
  • While highly acidic foods, such as tomato sauce, can be kept for up to 18 months, low-acid foods like green beans in a can are actually good for up to five years. Canned goods should not be kept in a hot place such as a garage or warehouse.

Practice food safety tips when possible.

Whenever you are shopping, be sure to check the expiration date. Foods that are past their expiration date should not be purchased. Perishable foods should be taken home as soon as possible and refrigerated immediately. If a perishable food won’t be consumed within its recommended time, it should be frozen. Foods that are frozen are safe for an indefinite amount of time.

If you believe you or someone in your family has suffered an illness due to an expired food, you should seek medical attention immediately. Consider visiting Denton Regional Urgent Care for convenient hours and online check-in that provide you a quick and easy experience.

Disclaimer: Patients’ health can vary. Always consult with a medical professional before taking medication, making health-related decisions or deciding if medical advice is right for you.


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