Do not believe the packaging: how many different products are actually stored - ForumDaily
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Do not believe the packaging: how long do different products actually last

When is the right time to toss something out of food? The expiration date is not a shelf life, and the delay is a convention, reports NewYorkTimes.

Photo: IStock

Food dating, as the USDA calls it, is completely voluntary for all foods (with the exception of baby food). Not only that, it has nothing to do with security. It acts solely as a manufacturer's best guess as to when their product will no longer be of the highest quality, whatever that means. Food manufacturers also tend to be pretty conservative about these dates, knowing that we don't all keep our pantries in the dark and open our refrigerators as little as necessary.

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Let's start with what you definitely don't need to worry about. Vinegars, honey, vanilla or other extracts, sugar, salt, corn syrup and molasses will last almost forever with little change in quality. Rolled oats keep for a year or so before they start to go bad, but steamed oats (or instant oats) can last almost forever.


White flour is almost certainly usable, regardless of its age. Whole grain flour can take on a metallic or soapy odor within a few months. For example, refined white rice lasts for years, while brown rice only lasts for months.

This is because unrefined grains contain fat, and fat is the first to go when it comes to dry foods. Hazelnuts, usually high in fat, spoil within a few months in the pantry. Store them in the freezer to extend the shelf life up to several years.


Supermarket shelf-stable bread made with oils (and preservatives) can stay soft for weeks in the fridge, but lean, crunchy sourdough dough from the corner bakery will get stale the next day and probably start molding before it's finished. weeks.


Dried beans and lentils will remain safe to eat for many years after purchase, but they will become tougher over time and take longer to cook. If you're not sure how old your dried beans are, don't use them in recipes that contain acidic ingredients like molasses or tomatoes. The acid can drastically increase the softening time of the beans.


We all ridicule our parents for using spices that expired in the 1980s, but aside from the loss of flavor intensity, there is nothing criminal about using them (unless you consider tasteless peppers a crime).

How about canned food and jars?

Generally, metal lasts longer than glass, which lasts longer than plastic.

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As long as there are no outward signs of spoilage (such as blistering or rusting) or visible signs of spoilage upon opening (such as haze, mold, or a rotten smell), your canned fruits, vegetables, and meats will remain as tasty and appetizing as the day you bought them. them. The small button on the lid of the jars, which bulges out if there has been a significant bacterial attack inside the jar, is still the best way to tell if the contents are safe to eat. Depending on storage, this could be a year or a decade.

Similarly, soda cans will retain their fizz for years, glass bottles for up to a year, and plastic bottles for several months.

Most plastics are gas permeable.


Oils, even rancid-prone unrefined oils stored in sealed jars, last almost forever. Oils in sealed glass bottles have a shorter shelf life. Oil in open containers can vary greatly in shelf life, but they will all last longer if you don't store them near or above the stove where heat can get to them.

How do you know if your oil is good? Just like with most products: follow your nose. The old oil begins to take on a metallic, soapy or, in some cases, such as with canola oil, a fishy odor. Don't trust your nose? Apply a drop to your fingertip and squeeze it. Rancid butter will be sticky, not slippery.

Also from the oil and vinegar department: Salad dressings can keep in the fridge for months or more than a year, especially if they come in narrow-necked bottles (as opposed to wide-mouth jars).


The mustard stays forever. Ketchup will begin to change color before the end of the year, but it will still be delicious. Contrary to popular belief, mayonnaise has an exceptionally long shelf life, especially if it doesn't contain ingredients like fresh lemon juice or garlic. High concentrations of fat, salt and acid are the enemies of bacteria and mold.

Soy sauce is famous for its longevity.


We all know what a rotten egg smells like, right? But how many times have you actually sniffed it: once? Twice? Never? It takes a long time for eggs to spoil.

How much? The Julian date printed on each box (it's a three-digit number from 001 for January 1st to 365 for December 31st) is the date the eggs were packed, which in most parts of the country can be up to 30 days after the actual laying of the egg. The sale stamp can be as early as 30 days after the packing date.

That's 60 full days! But chances are good that they will still be delicious for a few more weeks.


We've all accidentally poured some lumpy spoiled milk into our cereal bowls. It seems that everything is fine with our milk, but suddenly it is not. How does it spoil overnight? The truth is that it is not. From the moment you open a bag of milk, bacteria begin to digest lactose (milk sugar) and produce acidic by-products. Once its pH reaches 4,6, casein (milk protein) sticks together.

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Do you want long shelf life milk? Look for "ultra-high temperature" or "UHT" on the label. The milk in these boxes was pasteurized at high temperatures (hot enough to kill not only viruses and bacteria, but also bacterial spores), then aseptically pumped and sealed in boxes. Most brands of organic milk are ultra-pasteurized.

Baby food

And for baby food—the only product with a federally mandated expiration date—that expiration date is the latest date a manufacturer can guarantee that a product contains at least every nutrient that is listed on the label or package.

Rest assured that even in the event of a zombie apocalypse, you can still eat baby food and get some nutritional benefits.

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