#985 Eating things past the expiry date

Date Coke becomes clear and salty

I used to follow expiry dates like gospel, figuring the sour cream would sweeten, the ice cream would melt, and the rice would crumble into dust the morning after after the the block-stamped date on the bottom of the package had passed. If the expiry date was closing in, I’d just cut my losses and chuck it. “Better safe than sorry,” I’d say, tossing a half-full carton of orange juice off the wall and into the garbage.

Then for the two years while I lived with Joey in Boston, I witnessed him first-hand casually disregard expiry dates with a wave of the hand and a slight laugh. “What’s going to happen?,” he’d ask sarcastically, putting together a salad with brown Romaine, rock-hard croutons, and Caesar dressing that poured out a film of oil before the dressing came out. “Am I going to die?”

And he had a point. While the nutritional content of last month’s blueberries may have slipped a notch, as long as they weren’t growing spores or starting to smell like a diaper, how bad could they be? I watched Joey carefully from a distance for a while, looking for signs that he was putting himself at risk. But no, nothing. He kept right on standing. No retching from his bedroom late at night, no disappearing rolls of toilet paper and clogged pipes, no sudden hospital visits after eating doggie-bag chicken wings from someone’s birthday party a month before. He was all right.

And so with newfound courage I slowly started testing the waters. Cans of soda seemed like easy first targets. I don’t even remember them having expiry dates when I was a kid, and so the terse finger-wagging printed on the bottom of the aluminum can seemed like a bit of a joke. Who throws away an unopened can of Diet Pepsi? I suppose Pepsi would love it if we just bought their stuff, stashed it for a while, and then threw it out. But I would no longer stand for that. So I conquered soda, then branched out into potato chips. They go stale when you don’t seal them, they stay fresh when you do, right? So the date probably applied if you left them sitting in a bowl on your coffee table, I eventually figured. I bought them, I’ll eat them, even if it takes me till Christmas.

It was tougher to be brave with bread and milk, but I convinced myself that worst-case scenario I was just eating penicillin and cheese. I pictured a cracker with a square of brie and a pink capsule squished right into it and I thought “That’s not that bad.”

And so it went. Buying groceries just for myself got easier, knowing that I had the newfound strength to down yellow orange juice or slice up onions that had grown roots and were searching desperately for soil under my kitchen sink. Plus, I saved a lot of money, and I like to think I helped give my immune system some tough new cases to crack, like sending it to the gym for some strength training and mental focusing so it’s ready for prime time. This way I’m ready in case I ever get shot with a poison dart or mistake a glass of paint thinner for water.

Now, I’m not advocating being stupid. The fuzzy lampchops should probably still be left alone. But come on, let’s hear it for pushing a little bit harder. Let’s here it for testing the waters. Let’s hear it for eating things past the expiry date.

AWESOME!

Death

124 thoughts on “#985 Eating things past the expiry date

  1. I routinely eat yogurt past the date. Hey, it’s fermented anyway, what else is gonna happen to it? I’ve also been seen picking off the little green spots on my pita bread, before tossing it in the toaster. If you’re not sure about your milk, make some tea and pour a little in. If the milk curdles when it hits the tea, that’s a no-go.

    1. This is my favourite on the list so far. Today I noticed I bought some organic orange juice that was 10 days past the date, drank it all week for breakfast. Made a sandwich with bread with a touch of mould, just shaved that right off, and used some expired sliced turkey – hey it smelled okay.
      This site is awesome, thanks Dude for pointing it out.

    2. I worked for Procter & Gamble at Ivorydale Foods. They accelerate decomposition in high temperature/humidity closets. They are very conservative about the expiration dates because they do not want someone to buy product that goes bad past the expiration date. Use your judgment after the expiration date – many products are good long after the date. I freshen chips and nuts in the microwave.

      1. Do the plastic containers also release toxins into the food that they are stored in after a certain date…like sandwich meat, salad with mayo, bottled water? I am home sick today after eating food past the expiration date even though it looked alright…

      2. you might think eggs past the date are risky, but most eggs are still good 4-5 weeks after the “sell by” date.

  2. Some things are just ridiculous lately when it comes to expiration dates. I mean, when exactly did canned food that I was supposed to be able to stuff into my personal backyard underground bunker and forget about for a decade or two until the last surviving human crawled along needing lunch start requiring an expiration date at all, much less one no more than three years from the date of purchase? Bah. Those Vienna sausages would probably be okay three years after being opened as long as the cats didn’t get them. The entire purpose of canning food in the first place is to give it a half-life rivaling carbon-14.

    Admittedly, I have neither personal backyard nor underground bunker, but that’s hardly the issue. While fresh meat and dairy have distinctly limited lifespans, Spam really should, by all rights, outlive me. This two to three year business is just absurd. That date on the can of Coke? It seriously can only indicate the duration that the caustic fluid can safely be contained by mere aluminum before escaping to find newer, tastier victims. Perhaps it is a warning to be heeded after all…

    1. You might actually be able to blame New Jersey for this one. It’s the same reason that water has an expiration date. There was a law passed in 1987 in NJ that required all food items to have an expiration date of no more than two years from the manufacture date. Since food companies mass produce their products and send them all over the country, they just added these dates to all their products. Despite the state repealing the law, most manufacturers simply left the dates there (presumably for shits and giggles).

      Of course, that may not be the only reason, but just some food for though.

      1. Hey, what about getting you to buy more? Coke NEVER GOES BAD, but if you chuck it when it says to, you’ve paid for it and you gotta buy more.

      2. Actually, water past the date is safe (obviously) but after a few years it will begin to take on strange flavors of the plastic or the room in which it was stored.

    2. “I mean, when exactly did canned food that I was supposed to be able to stuff into my personal backyard underground bunker and forget about for a decade or two until the last surviving human crawled along needing lunch start requiring an expiration date at all, much less one no more than three years from the date of purchase?”
      Man, your sentence is as long as an expiry date. Can I still swallow it after it travelled for so months ?

      1. Lovely long sentence, actually, except that unless the author intends to imply that the demise of all but one hungry human is a mere 10 or 20 years away, in which case I would place my bet on Spam, the phrase “for a decade or two until the last surviving human crawled along needing lunch” needs an “or” between “two” and “until.”

      1. BPA is mostly present in the plastic containers but not in cans and some plastics don’t have BPA

  3. Just don’t forget to use the crack and sniff method first……..ever ended up with a mouthful of sour milk?! That is so far from awesome it’s almost awesome again.

    1. “That is so far from awesome it’s almost awesome again.”

      BEST PHRASE EVER!

      This site kicks ass, incidentally.

      1. totally agree! I just came across this site via Facebook and I can’t believe I’ve never heard of this before. Probably because I’m a cavewoman and never watch anything other than horror flicks. LOL. But this site is waaayyy cool!

      2. “That is so far from awesome it’s almost awesome again.”

        BEST PHRASE EVER!

        agreed :-D

        It’s been a few years since I added my 2 cents on this site page. Every now and then, over the years, a reply drops in on #985 Eating things past the expiry date… like a dear old friend opening the door to my refrigerator and saying “Hmmm is that still good? Let’s try it anyway!”

  4. Ya, soft drinks do degrade over time. Diet drinks faster than the regular corn syrup sweetened stuff.

    Storing your Dr. Pepper in dark, cool areas helps slow down the process, though.

    You know when people say that fountain drinks taste worse than cans and bottles? It is usually because the product is old.

    I used to be in the racket and can tell you if the following conditions are met, fountain drinks taste better than cans or 2 litre plastic bottle stuff (its hard to beat small glass bottles, but perhaps I’ve said too much):

    – fresh product
    – good water (filtered or nice well water)
    – adequate CO2
    – perfect “brix”…the ration between syrup and water – usually 1:5, with Sprite it is 1:6

  5. fuck,why don’t…why isnt rather..there a ‘stale food’ section in the grocery store..fuck.why don’t someone open up a ‘stale food super market,if people dig this shit. id like to see that happen.i like my food fresh,after so many years of eating at soup kitchens…(which isnt good.) but nothing beats the pure kickassness of a homecooked…burger king meal.

  6. Usually anything packed in foil-like material is fine if you have it after the expiry date, potato chips packaged like this keep their crunch, and anything frozen is perfectly good, well after the expiry date. I draw the line at fresh milk or even yoghurt (bad experience as a child lol)

  7. OMG, my husband is notorious for this…he does it so much that I’m almost starting to wonder if he thinks it tastes better after the exp. date. Most of time…not so bad. But dairy items are a no no in my book.

    1. How about sour cream? I don’t remember ever tasting it when I could tell it had gone off. I can’t tell until it goes green.

      1. Sour cream goes orange when it’s too old. I just carefully scoop the weird rusty orange color off the top and behold, there’s still some pure white sour cream in the middle! Just enough to put on my sprouted green spuds.

  8. LOL – I do this all the time, and have for ages. My grandmother was well known for hoarding bits past what should have been their full life span and then slipping them into dishes for us to eat. I credit this with my amazing ability to almost never get sick. Tinned goods, pantry staples, and the freezer are my friends, but I, too, tend to draw the line with milk (but not most other dairy products). Like Tess mentioned above, spoiled milk is way far from awesome.

  9. reminds me of the guy who compares dating your ex with taking swig of sour milk, putting it back in the fridge, and saying “maybe it will be okay tomorrow.”

  10. Yogurt is one thing I will never eat after the expiration date again. I had some questionable yogurt once that didn’t smell or taste that bad, and an hour later, I was paying for it.

    Everything else is fair game as long as it’s not obviously rotten. Except I’m a little scared of the salad dressing in my refrigerator. I think I bought sometime between 1999 and 2002 and that’s pushing it a bit.

  11. The most hilarious thing is cleaning products with best before dates, like bleach, how is bleach going to go off??

  12. Most things do not really have an expiration date any more. In the past decade or so there’s been a shift to putting even earlier dates on things and calling them the “best by” date. The latest date at which the food is at its best. They did this because things don’t necessarily expire on an expiration date. It’s not some magic date. There are a whole lot of things that go into that equation. How is the food stored? What temperature is it stored at? and so on. The colder milk is kept, the longer it will stay fresh. Eggs, for instance, will keep for a year if they are turned every two weeks. Many countries do not even refrigerate their eggs like Americans do. It’s quite surprising, really, how long some things will stay fresh. that’s why if you want to save some money, it’s best to ignore dates altogether and just check something before you eat it. If it’s got a foul odor or mold (except cheese…just cut the mold off) throw it out.

  13. The wonderbread store sells old cakes, cupcakes, and yup bread. Sometimes the see by date is today. In my family of 5 including 3 pigs, a loaf of bread is dinner on BLT night.

    They usual have an old food section in the grocery store, on a rack near where the stock is. Or in produce they call it managers specials. I found the best ketchup ever in the discontinued section Heinz hot sauce ketchup .67 cents for a bottle, but I never found it again.

  14. Wow. Really?

    My Grandmother sends us out of date food regularly. I figured she was trying to get rid of us, so that she could spend would-be inheritance on charming Italian gigolos.

    The implicit mild contempt of, ‘It’s not good enough for me, but my dear posterity wont mind,’ just doesn’t have the same, sordid ring to it.

  15. I love this one, and have only ever had one bad experience with it. I once took part in eating those gargantuan pickles from the gallon jars. It was past the expiration date but it was unopened and had been in my friends dark cool basement. Me and a couple of friends stayed up eating these at one scary movie night and as subconsciously reached over to grab another pickle my hand closed around a slimy film about 6 inches around the color of a booger. We all freaked out and one guy threw up and we didn’t know what it was. Being older now i come to think that it was a culture mother. These are bacterial discs that go into the bottoms of wine barrels and vinegar to give them distinct tastes. I am pretty sure this old pickle jar had basically been growing a mother for years and we didn’t realize until we got to the bottom. Truly disgusting.

  16. It’s like free food. You were going to throw it out, but now you ate it. I like cutting the mold off cheese and then eating the inner cheese. It seems like something a person in the middle ages would do. It’s like time travel. I also secretly think half the stuff we eat now was discovered when some brave (starving?) soul ate it the first time – yogurt, sour cream, wine, cheese, vinegar.

  17. As my wife always says, “How does the milk know what date it is?” As with most products, you’re probably safe. All it does for manufactures is guarentee freshness before the expiry date. It doesn’t mean it’ll be instantly bad on that given date.

  18. they’re not actually “expiration” dates, merely an guideline as to when food items will start to lose their peak flavour.

    food doesn’t just magically go bad on the date on the packaging; in some cases you have up to a month before it actually starts to “expire”.

  19. Bottled water seems to last forever if you never open it. The opened soda loses the fizz fast though once opened.

    1. the water thing is not really true, it can expire, especially if it’s in flexible plastic bottles.

      i really dont like eating things past the expire date and i never do it. im always scared to get sick, but my gf does it from time to time and she doesnt have any major problems. i dont care about every product though, chocolate lasts for ages e.g. and i laughed when i saw an expiry date on vineage some time ago, it basically cant expire..

  20. i ate 2 week old creme fraiche ended up throwing up about 6 times for the next 6 hours. so, wouldn’t recommend it. it tasted slightly old, but no mold or anything.

  21. A lot of things I don’t even look at the expiry date for, the only things I refuse to eat or drink after it is expired, it can even be the same day is dairy products definetly. I will use expired milk that is a day old if I absolutely have to, but never drink it. I just can’t get myself to do it. And stale crackers, I can’t eat stale crackers. But I dont check the dates I taste it and if it tastes stale to me I chuck them!

  22. When in doubt, throw it out! I think one is asking for trouble when eating food past the expiration date. It’s just not worth the risk of getting sick. Once you’ve had food poisening, you learn to be more cautious.

    If you think you’re saving money by eating old food, think about what the hospital bill might be if you end up in the E.R. Really, it’s not worth it!

  23. If your success is not on your own terms, if it looks good to the world but does not feel good in your heart, it is not success at all.

  24. The thing is, my mom eats EGGS past the expiry date. Never gotten salmonella poisoning, either. (Phew!)

  25. I know just enough about microbiology to tell you about the mold spores you can see on spoiled food (cheese, bread, etc.) They are like the chiefs or generals…. think indian hunting parties or guerilla warfare. They send scouts out into the deep hidden areas of food. Picking off the green, white or blue fuzzy bits doesn’t make the food safer to eat. Eaters beware!!! Red mold is the most toxic.

  26. My dad is still a joke in this way. He always prefers the salad dressings that have expired, and he jokes it tastes better. He’d love this post… I might have to print it and show him. Awesome!

  27. It’s currently 2010, the other day I opened a can of diet coke that expired the summer of ’05, it was essentially carbonated water, all taste had aparently fled the can years ago but in my thirst I drank it anyway. One week later I feel absoloutly fine, I did grow an extra hand but im pretty sure thats unrelated

  28. This is really a laugh in most countries. Contemplate for a moment how long that food has travelled (stereotypically: california oranges, washington apples, idaho potatoes, wisconsin cheese, georgia peaches) to get to the processing plant. Then how long and extremely it was processed into submission and stasis. And then think of the packing, shipping process to your grocery store where the food was then unloaded, inventoried, shelved, and sat for who knows how long waiting for you to pick it up. If you are truly concerned about dates of expiry, understand how much control and processing goes into making sure that the food doesn’t go bad before you buy it, and then understand how unnaturally unfresh that food is the moment you buy it. If you want fresh food, shop the farmer’s market and demand local (within a day’s drive). If you shop at the grocery store, assume it will last until it looks moldy or smells bad. But of course, it is up to your judgement. If you don’t feel qualified to judge, it is probably best to stick to due dates. Personally, I think it is a hideous waste of perfectly good food.

  29. BEWARE OF DIET PEPSI/COKE

    I once took a drink of diet cola that was right at the expiration date only to find it had turned to a mixture containing formaldehyde. The artificial sweetener in diet cola will turn into some very nasty stuff if it sits long enough.

  30. Maybe its just bad luck on my part, but pop sure as heck expires. A few times now I’ve gotten a Pepsi that tasted like I was drinking dirt and perfume mixed in. I’ve also seen opened pops with mold floating on top of the liquid. Blech.

  31. Although it has not yet been scientifically proved, eating food free of chemicals has got to be an option to seriously consider.Organic food are now more easily obtainable through many different outlets. Many farmers sell organic fruit and vegetables. By doing a search on the Internet you will immediately be able to find suppliers of many different types of organic food in many different countries. Supermarkets sell organic fruit and vegetables and other organic produce.

  32. Thanks everyone!

    Tonight I cooked a recipe from ‘The French Kitchen’ cookbook. I was excited because I had all the ingrediants bar the creme fraiche but then notice that the puy lentils I’d pulled from the pantry had expired in June 2008! I had some tinned ones but really wanted to use the dried ones as felt they were more French. After mulling it over in my head for a few hours I decided to google ‘eating past the use by date’ and found this blog. After reading all your comments I decided to go for it and hey – I’m still ok, as is my husband. It has only been an hour but I promise if I take a turn for the worst, I’ll let you all know.

  33. Actually, I experienced firsthand the truth of the expiry date on diet pepsi — during a visit to my brother’s cabin I discovered some diet pepsi from 10 years ago. I was all, “What the heck?” and drank it: result, disgusting! Beware of the 10 year old diet pepsi!

    Btw, this site is AWESOME!

  34. my family has been using the same bottle of weird chinese vegetable sauce for years. it’s 11 years past the expiration date- no joke. it still tastes fine, but i can’t remember the original taste enough to know if it’s just turned into an entirely new thing on its own… yum :)

  35. I work at McDonald’s and the expiration dates put on our food are typically a few days, on certain items even a week, earlier than when they actually expire.

  36. I’ve always wondered about those guys at Costco buying tons of loafs of bread at a time, I have a hard time beating the expiring date of just one loaf of bread, this unless I make myself, my wife and my son sandwiches everyday for a full week. I know that they freeze the bread, but I also wonder how to recalculate the expiry dates after you’ve frozen stuff, the only way is to look at whatever you’re eating and if it looks a little suspicious, then make a little prayer when in doubt.

  37. I’m always amazed when I see an expiry date on honey (I’m also amazed that we seem to insist that the companies package honey in teddy bear shaped plastic bottles, but that’s another story)…

    I read somewhere that some years ago archeologists found containers full of honey in a pharaoh’s tomb in Egypt and tasted it… and it was still good!

    I’m sorry, but tasting 3000 years old honey: AWESOME!

  38. Funny story, and loving this list.

    While cleaning out my pantry, I discovered two jars of spices with expiry dates of 19th March 1979 (White Peppercorns) and 16th Jan 1980 (Oregano Leaves).

    The funny thing is, is that we’ve moved house 4 times since that date, and obviously no-one bothered to check the spice rack :P

    These spices are older than me!!!

  39. I have a hard time using milk after the expiration date. I will usually use it for cooking if it is a couple of days after the expiration date, but any longer than that and there is no way that I am using it.

  40. My boyfriend staunchly ignores the expiration date. He truly believes that they’re only numbers. There are some things I will eat past the date: Cheese is the biggest one. My mother always trimmed the mould off. As long as what you’re eating doesn’t seem to have mould on it, it’s all good. Most cheese is mould anyway!

  41. When my mother-in-law passed away last year, leaving all her earthly belongings to her kids, our proximity determined that my wife and I take charge of cleaning out the house. Well, mom had saved a huge amount of backup food supplies, and my wife wanted to throw out the entire lot. Fortunately, I convinced her to give it a chance. Sure, some boxes of soy milk and cans of dried broccoli were better suited for feeding a compost heap, but there was also a small fortune in grains, legumes, pasta, and canned/boxed goods that were still perfectly fit for consumption. And we got it for free (didn’t have to count the value it as we divvied up the estate). Just last month, we made a delicious cake from a boxed mix that, according to the stamp, should have been relinquished to a landfill four years ago.

  42. i could never do that, except for milk but only a week after the date, because that’s all i can think about you know, you’re eating/drinking something that doesn’t work anymore

  43. When I was growing up we didn’t have expiration dates on food. You looked at it, calculated it’s age, did the sniff test and maybe a small nibble if you weren’t absolutely sure. We stored root vegetables and garden produce for months during the winter. I sometimes think the expiration dates are to make us purchase more.

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