Is Expired Food Safe to Eat?

Is Expired Food Safe to Eat

Written by Julie

This post originally appeared in Home Ready Home

Last week, I went through my pantry, trying to get an idea of how much food storage I have. By the time the organizing session was complete, a dozen or so “expired” items sat on my kitchen counter.

In the past, I didn’t hesitate to throw a can in the trash if it was expired. And according to an article on Urban Survival Site, I’m not the only one tossing the goods. More than 75% (and some studies claim it’s as high as 90%) of us believe that food is unsafe to eat after the expiration date. This time, though, I’ve decided to change my ways and put the expired items back on the shelf.

Why?

Because it turns out that none of those dates stamped on canned goods have to do with safety.  A recent report by the Natural Resources Defense Council and Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic claims that expiration dates aren’t regulated like we would believe. There is no standardized system for expiration dates.

The study found manufacturers determine for themselves how to set dates, if they want to put a date on packaging, what kind of date they will use, and what that date means.

So what do those dates mean? 

Well, it gets confusing because there are several different types of dates used on packages—like “sell-by”, “best if used by”, “best before”, and “use-by”. Here’s how the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines of each of these dates:

Types of Dates

  • A “Sell-By” date tells the store how long to display the product for sale. You should buy the product before the date expires.
  • A “Best if Used By (or Before)” date is recommended for best flavor or quality. It is not a purchase or safety date.
  • A “Use-By” date is the last date recommended for the use of the product while at peak quality. The date has been determined by the manufacturer of the product.
  • “Closed or coded dates” are packing numbers for use by the manufacturer.

And here’s what the USDA has to say about expiration date safety:

Safety After Date Expires: Except for “use-by” dates, product dates don’t always pertain to home storage and use after purchase. “Use-by” dates usually refer to best quality and are not safety dates. Even if the date expires during home storage, a product should be safe, wholesome and of good quality if handled properly.

The only exception to this is the “use-by” date on infant formula, which is mandated by the Food and Drug Administration.

The bottom line is after the expiration date, the food may not be as fresh and it may have lost some of it’s nutritional value, but generally, it is safe to eat.

Yes, I know what you’re thinking—if you can’t rely on the date, how do you know when the food is unsafe to eat?

The simple answer is open it and inspect it. If it smells bad, looks off-color or has a funny taste, get rid of it. And don’t eat the food from rusty, bulging, dented or otherwise damaged cans.

There are also some online resources that can help you determine shelf life of your pantry items. Eat By Date  is my favorite resource and here’s one that my friend, Shelle of Preparedness Mama refers to: Still Tasty 

These sites can help you avoid throwing away still-good food as well as learn the best way to store food for optimal freshness and longest shelf-life.

P.S. If you need a little help keeping your pantry organized, I highly recommend The Preparedness Planner.

The Preparedness Planner

About the Author:

Julie

Hi! I’m Julie, a suburban mom during the week and mountain mama on the weekend blogging about my transition from country club to country living and from fast food to food storage. Follow along as I learn how to garden, cook-from-scratch, build a pantry, master back-to-basics skills and more.
Please visit Home Ready Home for the latest posts.

Is it Safe to Refreeze Thawed Meat?

Is it safe to refreeze thawed meat

This post is by Bernie Carr, apartmentprepper.com

Whenever there is a power outage, we always avoid opening the refrigerator and especially the freezer to avoid letting the cold out.  A big worry is that freezer items will thaw out and go bad.  Some food items are salvageable, but some are not so clear-cut.

This also happens in everyday life:  you take out steaks or chicken and leave them in the refrigerator overnight to thaw, only to run out of time and get takeout after staying late at work.  Does it have to go to waste?

Is it Safe to Refreeze Thawed Meat?

An informal poll of cooks in our family yielded various results:  my husband’s aunt said, “Sure you can refreeze meat that has thawed, but it will be dry when you do cook it.”  My Mom says she would never refreeze food, just cook it and eat it the next day.  Other friends say you can refreeze if it was in the fridge but not if it was taken out on the counter.

I did a bit more research and tested it for myself.  Here is what I found out:

  • If the meat still has ice crystals in it, and the temperature never went over 40 degrees Fahrenheit, then it is safe to refreeze.
  • If the food was thawed in the refrigerator, it is likely to be safe to refreeze if you refreeze it the same day.  However, if it has been there more than two days, it is not a good idea.  I have checked on thawed meat after two days, and it is already does not smell fresh.
  • The meat will dry out a bit if it has been refrozen.  I have tried this and found it to be true:  the meat does appear drier than it would have been originally.
  • Do not use the meat if it smells “off.”
  • Do not thaw meat by leaving it out on the counter.  The best way to thaw meat is in the refrigerator.

Again, if you have any doubts at all, just toss it.  Don’t risk eating spoiled meat-you can get really sick.  It’s better to be safe than sorry.

© Apartment Prepper 2014

Emergency Essentials/BePrepared

 

Puritan's Pride

10 Easy Tips to Avoid Food Storage Problems

10 Easy Tips to Avoid Food Storage ProblemsThis post is by Bernie Carr, apartmentprepper.com

A lot of people are now considering storing food for emergencies but feel they have obstacles that prevent them from doing so.  Perhaps they feel they don’t have any free space, or become overwhelmed by the task.

Having limited space and living in a hot humid climate for at least 120 days out of the year, I am very familiar with storage problems.

Ideally, food should be stored at around 50-55 degrees, with no more that 15% humidity.   Does that mean you cannot store food if you do not have these ideal conditions?  Of course you can!  The conditions described are “in a perfect world” type scenario, and we all know it’s not perfect, otherwise we would not need to store food.

Summer temperatures in Texas reach over 100 degrees with 80% humidity.  To save electricity, we keep the air conditioning at around 78-80 degrees.  The A/C cuts down on humidity, but moisture still seeps in.  This is something we cannot ignore.  We just factor in that the food stored will not last as long as it would have at cooler, drier temperatures.

Here are some tips:

  • Clear out an area before getting started, or as you supply grows.  Clean out the junk closet and sell or donate items, leaving free space for food storage.  Try using underutilized spaces such as under the beds, inside empty suitcases or TV cabinet.
  • Avoid waste and store only foods that your family eats.  Resist the urge to stock up on sale or discontinued items just because of the low price.
  • Choose canned foods that have the longest expiration dates.  Do not buy cans that are dented or misshapen even if they are heavily discounted.  Although some studies have shown they can last a few years past their expiration dates, I prefer not to risk it, especially after a friend’s unfortunate experience.  Getting ill from eating spoiled food is not worth it.
  • Rotate your food constantly.  I mark the expiration date with a Sharpie marker on top of the canned food and on the sides to make sure I use them before those dates.  At least twice a year, go through your supplies and use anything close to expiration.
  • If you are storing bulk foods in mylar bags, observe the proper technique by using oxygen absorbers and letting all the air out.  Label your buckets with the contents and the date the food was stored.  Plan on using these stored foods within five years, instead of ten, if your storage conditions are not ideal.
  • Find out that pests got into your stored food such as rice or flour would be disastrous, not to mention expensive to replace.  Clean the area surrounding your food storage thoroughly.  Make sure the area is dry and pest free.  For additional protection from pests, keep stored foods in five gallon food grade buckets with tight lids.
  • For maximum shelf life, choose dehydrated or freeze-dried foods.  Mountain House, a provider of food for recreational and emergency purposes, just increased their stated shelf life from 10 years to 12 years on their pouches.
  • If you are storing water in containers for drinking, use and replace the water after a year.  Mark the date of storage on the container using a label or sharpie marker.  Mold or moss may develop after the container been sitting in a warm, humid area for a while.  If you do use water that has been stored for a long while, have a backup water purification system by running it through a filter, boiling etc.
  • Make sure your food and water storage is not close to gasoline or other chemicals that emit fumes that will contaminate your supplies.

This tips will help minimize mistakes,  and ensure your stored food and water will be available when you most need them.

© Apartment Prepper 2014

 




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 For beginning preppers

Food Storage for Self-Sufficiency and Survival by Angela Paskett: Review and Giveaway

Food StorageI had an opportunity to review a copy of Food Srorage for Self-Sufficiency and Survival by Angela Paskett.

I like the way the book is organized, with a separate chapter covering food needs for 72 hours, short term emergencies (two weeks to three months) and long term emergencies (three months or longer).   There are more sections dealing with water storage, preserving, packing dry foods for long term, maintaining balance, sustainable food storage, organizing and using your food storage.  In short, this book covers everything you need to know about storing food.

If you are just starting out with your food storage plan, then you are fortunate to have this guide, but if you already have some food stored, you can still find a lot of good ideas.  With this book you will also learn to make the most out of your food storage, avoid waste and use your storage to save money and time.  For example, there is a section on what to do with oil that has gone past its edible prime.  The book also covers how food storage can actually improve your financial situation as you get through some lean months.

I found a lot of ideas on how I can improve my own food storage plan.  The author gives practical steps that anyone can implement right away.  I highly recommend this book.

Now for the giveaway…

What aspect of food storage do you find the most challenging and why?

The winner* will be chosen at a random “Pick a Giveaway Winner” drawing on Friday,  May 16th at 8 pm Central.  *Winner will be notified via email.  Winner must reply to email notification within 48 hours or another winner will be drawn.

 

© Apartment Prepper 2014

 

Using Four Year Old Rice

FourYearOldRiceThis post is by Bernie Carr, apartmentprepper.com

We are rotating the first batch of rice we stored away and replacing it with the new batch.  I bought the rice back in April 2010 but did not repackage it for for long term storage until November 2010.  Usually, rice that is left in a pantry with no special packaging will last one to two years.

Since this is the first time I am using my rice storage I was really curious as to how the mylar bag/oxygen absorber packed rice held up.  We don’t keep it especially cold in our apartment – usually 75-78 degrees, and it does get humid indoors sometimes.

First, Mr. Apt Prepper opened up the five gallon bucket.  I didn’t realize they are not the easiest things to open, which is actually a good thing, because you know the contents are safe.  After he released the plastic zip seal, he had to slowly pry open the lid with a butter knife.  It would have been easier to have a bucket opener so I added one to the Amazon wish list.

Rice in mylar bagOnce opened, we examined the mylar bags inside and found them to be the same as when we packed them nearly four years ago.  The bags were still very much air tight as they shrink around the food once the oxygen absorber activates.  When I opened a bag, I found that the oxygen absorber was still soft and fresh, and did not harden as expired ones do.  I poured the contents into a jar, and cooked up a batch.

Pouring rice from mylar bagThe rice tasted good and there was no difference in taste or texture at all.  I am really glad the process works, and feel confident the food storage will hold up for many years.

Buying food in bulk and repackaging it yourself is a cost effective way to store for emergency long term storage.  As long as you keep rotating your food, it will not go to waste.  If you’d like to get started repackaging bulk food for long term storage, the easiest method is described here.

© Apartment Prepper 2014

Storing Foods in Less than Ideal Conditions

A lot of people are now considering storing food for emergencies but feel they have obstacles that prevent them from doing so.  Perhaps they feel they don’t have any free space, or someone told them there is no way they can store food under the conditions they have in their house.  They then become fixated on the problem and get delayed in their efforts.

Living in a hot humid climate for at least 120 days out of the year, I am very familiar with storage issues.

Ideally, food should be stored at around 50-55 degrees, with no more that 15% humidity.   Does that mean you cannot store food if you do not have these ideal conditions?  Of course you can!  The conditions described are “in a perfect world” type scenario, and we all know it’s not perfect, otherwise we would not need to store food!

Summer temperature in Texas reach over 100 degrees with 80% humidity.  To save electricity, we keep the air conditioning at around 78-80 degrees.  The A/C cuts down on humidity, but moisture still seeps in.  This is something we cannot ignore.  We just factor in that the food stored will not last as long as it would have at cooler, drier temperatures.

Here are some tips:

  • Choose canned foods that have the longest expiration dates.  Although some studies have shown they can last a few years past their expiration dates, I prefer not to risk it, especially after a friend’s unfortunate experience.  Getting ill from eating spoiled food is not worth it.
  • Rotate your food constantly.  I mark the expiration date with a Sharpie marker on top of the canned food and on the sides to make sure I use them before those dates.
  • If you are storing bulk foods in mylar bags, observe the proper technique by using oxygen absorbers and letting all the air out.  Plan on using these stored foods within five years, instead of ten, if your storage conditions are not ideal.
  • Clean the area surrounding your food storage thoroughly.  Make sure the area is dry and pest free  For additional protection from pests, keep stored foods in five gallon food grade buckets with tight lids.
  • Label your buckets with the contents and the date the food was stored.
  • If you are storing water for drinking, use and replace the water after a year.  Make a label for each container on when it was stored.  Water develops mold after it’s been sitting in a warm, humid area for a while.  If you do use water that has been stored for a long while, have a backup water purification system by running it through a filter, boiling etc.

We all have obstacles to prepping, but don’t let them stop you.  The key is to try to minimize mistakes,  but continue preparing anyway.

 

Check out the Legacy Premium line of storage foods carried by one of our sponsors, PrepareWise.

 

Don’t let those expiration dates get past you.  An inexpensive but helpful tool to keep track of supplies (Iphone or Ipad users):

 For beginning preppers

If You’re Starting a Food Storage Plan, Read this Book: The Prepper’s Pantry

Everyone needs to eat, so one of the first areas beginning preppers focus on is food storage.  Making a long term food storage plan can quickly become confusing and potentially expensive if you jump in without doing some research.  It is enough work planning a “normal” menu for a busy week ahead; planning a emergency storage pantry with all the large quantities can be overwhelming at first.

I read a review copy of The Prepper’s Pantry by Anne Lang and found a book with lots of helpful information especially if you are in the planning stages of your food storage.  This book will help you plan how much to store, what equipment you need, where to find supplies and provide instructions for dehydrating, canning, as well as cooking without electricity. The book provides helpful tips on reputable brands and where to find reasonably priced items, and steps you can take on a regular basis to become accustomed to cooking from food storage ingredients.  I liked the author’s system of packing all the ingredients needed for a loaf of bread in one mylar bag, with the accompanying recipe.  You can’t beat the convenience of just pulling out a bag from storage and being able to have a fresh loaf for dinner.  Lastly, the book includes plenty of main dish recipes that you can make out of stored food.

If you are just starting your food storage program, this book will save you time from having to research all the various choices and sources.  Whether you are preparing for a job loss, economic collapse, hurricane or power outage, the ability to feed your family using a solid food storage program such as one you can learn from this book will give you the peace of mind.

I have added The Prepper’s Pantry to my Amazon Store or you can click on the link below.

 

Find deals on food storage ingredients at Emergency Essentials: Emergency Essentials/BePrepared
Emergency Essentials/BePreparedEmergency Essentials/BePrepared