Saturday, February 25, 2012

Eating Expired Shelf Stable Foods

As a bit of background I recently returned from a year in Afghanistan. During that time Wifey went back home to stay with family in the PNW. We kept our residence in Germany through this time. We left all the shelf stable food in the kitchen. Over this time pretty much everything that was in the kitchen expired. Being cheap we want to use whatever we can. After all food storage is budget neutral or even positive (you can buy at sales since you don't need it for dinner that night) BUT ONLY IF YOU ACTUALLY EAT THE FOOD. Also I was just plain curious.

Before any more discussion there should probably be a disclaimer. I am going to write some anecdotal observations which come from evaluating and eating food that is past the "best by" date. Please do not take this as anything more than one families individual experiences. I am not a doctor or a nutrition expert or a scientist or in any way qualified to say that expired food is safe to consume.  I am just some yahoo sitting at home eating expired food and writing about it on the internet. Do your own research, talk to some experts and make your own decisions. If you eat a can of oysters that have been in a shed in Alabama for a decade, get sick an die don't have your survivors come complaining to me.

I think it is important to consider three things when it comes to the dates put on food. The first is that the dates are "best by" not "you will die if you eat after". Secondly we live in a very litigious society so companies have to error seriously (like belt and suspenders with pants that fit) on the side of caution. Lastly knowing that many people toss stuff at the date on the package and then go out and replace it companies have financial motivation to make the date a bit earlier to (over time and a large customer base) increase their sales. Due to these three things I think the dates on packages are often far earlier than the practical date where food is seriously degraded or unsafe to consume.

We will go item by item in no particular order discussing the edible then those deemed inedible. All items were in their original packaging.

The following items were solidly edible:

Cereal (Cherios 11 months past date, Captain Crunch 13 months past and generic Frosted Flakes 9 months past). No identifiable changes. Smells and tastes fine.

Flour, sealed, 6 months past best by date. It didn't rise quite as much as normal but tasted fine.

Folgers coffee opened 8 months past best by date. Maybe a little bit stale but perfectly drinkable.

Peter Pan chunky peanut butter, opened and partially used, 8 months past best by date. Starting to separate into solid and oil but smells and tastes fine.

Peter Pan creamy peanut butter opened and partially used, 10 months past best by date. No identifiable changes. Smells and tastes fine.

Crisco vegitable oil, 7 months past date. No identifiable changes. Smells and tastes fine. Used for cooking and baking.

Campbells tomato soup, 8 months past date. Slightly gelatinous and the soup came out with some lumps but otherwise tasted fine.
The below items were deemed inedible:
Manwich BBQ Sloppy Joe Sauce, 13 months past date. Opened the can and the contents were gelatinous and seemed to have some pockets of green discoloratation on the top that may have been some sort of mold. Needless to say we did not eat it.
Grape Jelly, Smuckers sugarless, unopened and 6 months past date. Smelled slightly like vinegar and we did not eat it.
It bears repeating that I am just some yahoo sitting at home eating expired food and writing about it on the internet. Just because something worked once for me does not mean it is necessarily so for all people under all circumstances. Do your own research, consult experts if necessary and use common sense before eating any food that is beyond the best by date or has been preserved/ stored questionably.
Anyway I thought this stuff might interest you all. As we try some more stuff I will keep track of it and report the results.


Anonymous said...

Interesting indeed.

I've got my own anecdote about eating expired food storage. My parents had a big flood a while back and lost a bunch of food storage. They figured this would be a good oppourtunity to rotate to something newer. Some of the old stuff survived the flood so my father decided to eat it. This stuff is old school food storage, rice, beans, etc, from the 70's and 80's. Surprisingly, he claims it's eatable. I had some when i was there and it gave me the shits. ymmv

Anonymous said...

When I was growing up we had a pantry with tons of canned foods that were at least 4 years old or older. Now in the stores I see expiration dates with a manufacturing date and an expiration date. The majority expire in 2 years. We also know they want you to use and buy more product. From my experiance I have seen canned foods eaten that were over 5 years expired with no problem.

Missy said...

Just opened a jar of Hy-top grape jelly that was expired 11/09. Looked and tasted fine. We ran out of homemade jelly and jam and were desperate. You can tell we don't use store jelly much by the date!

Anonymous said...

I looked up info on "best by" dates because I had a can of Manwich Sloppy Joe sauce that had expired in 2008, and I was really craving Sloppy Joe's when I opened it I didn't see anything moldy on top, and it smelled fresh! I was excited so I used it, it's cooking up right now and I tried it and it tasted great! I'm just waiting to get sick now Haha! I guess I'll find out later tonight if it was good or not...

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Anonymous said...

Just ate Manwich today. Expiration 17 months ago...fine.

Thomas Venney said...


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