One of (very few) downsides to living on a small island in the Caribbean is that most of the food on offer in the stores is imported, and so far past its sell by date that it was last considered good to eat when tape recorders were all the rage.
I can’t count the times I’ve come home from a shop and suddenly realised that several items are expired (sometimes by months), leading me to stand in my kitchen apoplectic with rage and start yelling obscenities at whoever’s within earshot (hubby or Dog, it doesn’t matter, both take it in their stride).
It’s not that I’m afraid of expired food, it’s not that I think salmonella lurks in every packet, it’s the principle of the thing!
And that’s why, if I spot some expired cheese that’s been lingering on the shelves for longer than is decent, I now hastily shove it in the cart and, when producing it at the till, loudly say: “this cheese is out of date, I’ll buy it – but not at the regular price” and usually get it for free, or as good as.
But as much as my inner cheapskate loves these moments, it does lead me to wonder – should I be eating this stuff?
The short answer is – it depends on the product.
Obviously you need to be more careful with perishables – meat, dairy, fish etc – but boxed items and things that aren’t refridgerated in the store are usually safer.
I’m not encouraging anyone to ignore expiry dates of course, but it’s worth remembering that food manufacturers err on the side of caution and most cases of food poisoning occur not because it’s past its date, but because it isn’t cooked enough or prepared incorrectly.
Oh and the sniff test (while it might work for your laundry) isn’t a great indicator of freshness.
Spoilage bacteria – the ones that produce the greenish tinge and weird smells – aren’t the ones that make you sick.
Scarily enough, the really bad guys can be virtually undetectable.
Last time I tried my cheese trick, it backfired miserably.
The girl on the checkout glared at me, whisked the offending mozarella out of my hands and said haughtily: “no, we can’t legally sell that”, so I went home cheese-less (a bad day, known forever in family history as The Day of No Cheese).
Weigh in: Do you ignore best by dates? Do you make a habit of checking your items at the store? Have you ever demanded a discount on food that’s expired?
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