NOV 29, 2016 12:36 PM PST

Can You Eat Food Past the Printed Date?


Americans throw out about 40 percent of our foods. This translates to a loss of $165 billion each year. On top of that, the wasted food accumulates in landfills, and exacerbates the ever-increasing methane emissions. But, by being conscious and understanding a little more about when foods truly go bad can help us reduce this waste.

As it turns out, the "expiration date" printed on packaged goods is misleading. For the most part, this is not the date when uneaten foods should be chucked to the trashcan. Rather, this is the manufacturer's recommendation of the product's "best by" date. With exceptions, some foods can still be safe to consume past its printed date. Notable exceptions include deli meat, dairy or meat product that smells or look spoiled.

For fruits and vegetables, there's no printed date to guide us, and we often rely on touch and smell. That is, we tend to think produce has gone bad if it's gotten spotty, squishy, or smelly. But, in many cases, the blemished produce are caused by the ripening process and the not-so-perfect fruits and vegies are relatively safe to consume. And rather than throwing out the whole fruit, consider cutting away the spots and enjoying the rest.
About the Author
Bachelor's (BA/BS/Other)
I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at
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