Expiration Dates: How Much You Should Pay Attention to Them
Key, regardless of the expiration date, always keep hot things hot and cold things cold and was hands, utensils, and countertops. Cooking food to the proper temperature kills bacteria that can cause human illness. Keeping things cold or frozen retards bacterial growth.
According to the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, manufacturers put “best by” or “best if used by” dates on their products to let retail stores and consumers know how long their products are expected to maintain their best taste and texture.
These dates aren’t required by federal law (though some states require them) and don’t necessarily indicate a product’s safety (except for baby formula). In fact, perishable products are usually safe to consume beyond their “best by” date if they’ve been handled and stored properly.
But there’s no hard and fast rule here — it’s ultimately up to you to decide whether it’s a good idea to go ahead and make that omelet du jour, or to toss the eggs and opt for a bowl of oatmeal instead.
Check your food for these surefire signs of spoilage:
• Smells “off.”
• Is moldy.
• Has a different texture than you would expect.
• Has an unpleasant taste.
General guidelines for freshness
These items should be safe in the fridge or pantry for the following amount of time:
• Milk: 7 days (Tip: Keep milk in the back of the fridge, where temperature is typically coldest.)
• Eggs: 3-5 weeks (Tip: Also store eggs in the back of the fridge, where the temperature is coldest.)
• Ground meat/poultry: 1-2 days.
• Cooked meat/poultry: 3-4 days.
• Lunch meat: 2 weeks unopened, or 3-5 days opened.
• Dry pasta: 1-2 years.
• Steaks: 3-5 days.
• Fresh poultry: 1-2 days.
• Canned fruit: 12 to 18 months, or 5 to 7 days in the fridge after opening.
• Rice and dried pasta: 2 years, or 3 to 4 days in the fridge after cooking.