by Christine Muller
Food waste comes at a huge cost to the environment. (See last paragraph of January’s Tip —Avoid Food Waste with Delicious Soups.) When deciding whether food is still good for consumption or not, use common sense.
Some foods will virtually last forever, such as sugar, molasses, honey, vanilla and other extracts, salt, and vinegar, no matter what the expiration date indicates. Dry beans also last for many years; however, their cooking time may increase after about one year. White flour and white rice also keep well for a very long time. Whole grain flour and brown rice have a shelf life of many months, but you cannot keep them for years because their fat content turns rancid.
Food expiration dates are rough estimates about food quality and generally don’t refer to food safety. So, while food is always more nutritious when fresh, there is no need to throw out food that is still edible. Common sense comes in handy here: If you happen to find a can of soup in the back of a kitchen shelf with an expiration date of two or even three years from the date of purchase, you can likely use it for at least another year after its expiration date. Of course, do not open a can if it is bulged. It is a good habit to always examine an opened can first with your eyes and nose, no matter whether its date is expired or not. A tub of yoghurt that one can keep for several weeks, is likely still perfect two or three weeks after its expiration date. However, you cannot keep it for months!
Generally, one must be more careful with raw meat. As with other food though, its edible life depends a great deal on how it is stored. If it was kept in a warm car for an hour, it may not even last until the official expiration date. If raw meat smells bad, it is better to throw it out. If it seems to be fine but is one or two days past its expiration date, just cook it longer for safety.
These are only some ideas to stimulate your own thoughts.
Food Waste Prevention Week will take place April 10 – 16, a great opportunity for meaningful conversations and public discourse.
To learn more about expiration dates, see: Deciphering dates on products (from savethefood.com).
To learn more about food storage, see: savethefood.com’s Storage Guide.