Can you imagine throwing out over $1,000 worth of perfectly good food every year??
The fact is, the average U.S. family of four wastes more than 2 million in calories and about $1,500 worth of food every year. Why? Those confusing dates! Don’t be taken in by those “sell by” dates. They aren’t actually an indicator of how safe your foods are. A report from the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Harvard found that 90 percent of Americans are throwing out food prematurely because of these stamped dates on food. Whatever you do, abide by these expiration dates for infant formula, because this is the safe and accepted system in the U.S.
The “coded” dating, used by the manufacturer, is most likely used for shelf-stable products and the “open” dating is typically used for perishable foods. “Sell by” dates are merely tools to help retailers in their proper turnover of a product. NRDC has suggested making the “sell by” date invisible to consumer. The “Use by” date is set by the manufacturer to suggest the date for best flavor or quality. This actually is no indication of freshness because there are minimal changes in the taste or texture after the “best by” date. A “use by” date is a recommendation for use of a product while at its peak quality. This date is also determined by the manufacturer. So this refers to best quality, not safety dates. The product should be safe and of good quality when handled properly. Again, infant formula is an exception because formula contains a certain quantity of each nutrient listed, and quality must be maintained.
Now here are some great tips for safe food handling and saving those dollars!
If you want to insure your eggs are still good after the “sell date”, put them in a bowl of water. If they sink, they’re fresh, if they float, don’t eat them unless you want to risk being sick.
Any mold on soft easily penetrable foods should be discarded. Do NOT sniff the moldy food as it can introduce mold spores into your respiratory tract. Hard veggies are acceptable and any mold can be cut and food still eaten.
Frozen meats thawed can be safely refrozen and pose no risks if thawed properly. Do not thaw on the counter or by warm water. After thawing by cold water, food should be cooked immediately. Most foods can be frozen successfully as long as they are stored correctly and do not alter the quality. The exceptions are some spices and seasonings as well as sauces made with milk.
If you want to keep your family safe, stick to the recommendation of buying your food locally, preferably from a small organic farm. Expiration dates came from a concern for freshness, not safety. Best solution? Return to the traditional practice of buying your food fresh from the farmer’s market. Happy shopping, Happy eating, Happy saving!
–Dr Fredda Branyon