Food Cache – “Best Buy” Dates

Best buy dates

You’ve started to stock up on food and using it in your normal diet as best you can. Your learning what you like and how you like it, but as with most people you stock something that you like, but somehow it doesn’t get into your normal meal rotation as much as the others. You’re taking an inventory one day and notice that the date on some of your items are in the past…..a few by months. The first thought that goes through your head is… it safe?

I’m old enough to remember when food had expiration dates. Today they are usually “Best By” or “Use By” dates, but many people and from my generation especially have continued to use them as expiration dates. Meaning that if the date on that can of corn is 2 months old it’s bad and goes in the trash. The true turning point for me in the debate about is something edible after that date without being bad for you came when I was volunteering at the local food bank. I was sorting cans of food and came across a can that was past the date by 9 months. I asked the supervisor where the out of date food goes. She took the can to look at the date and handed it back to me to sort, and said that most canned food can go past that date by over a year and some are more than that.

At this point I stood there a second to process what I had heard that went against everything I had been told, and then started questioning her on the matter. I was younger at the time and as with many young people I thought I knew better. We discussed it for a bit and eventually I sorted the can…..and many others just like it and moved on. After I got home I did a little research and to my surprise she was 100% correct. Most foods can go over the date stamped onto them, and some for a long time. There are still many people that refuse to believe this, and there are many that may never have to question this since most people buy food to get them through the next few days and it’s gone.

The truth I learned that day was this. The date on many foods is to indicate freshness, not spoilage, and in some cases it’s an arbitrary thing put on by food companies as a marketing/sales thing. Canned food can be good for years after the date and some foods that people would never guess for weeks. Eggs for example can last as much as 5 weeks past the date on the carton if stored properly and canned goods like corn are good for up to 3 years after the date. A box of mac-and-cheese can be eaten a year after the date and most likely you will not tell a difference.

A single search on the internet will generate pages of articles about the dates on our food products and the tests done by the FDA and private companies about the dates on our food. Fresh food of course is another matter and is very apparent when it starts going bad. What’s in the can, can make a difference so pick a can and search for information on it.

When it comes to canned food safety, there are some warning signs that a can is bad though. The signs are a bulging can or lid, signs of corrosion, mushy food that shouldn’t be, bad odor, and if you go to open a can and it spurts at you……bad sign. So, if you are checking your inventory of food stuffs and come across a can of hominy that is a year past the date on the can……no worries, it’s likely good to eat. I have included a few articles below if you want to read more about “Best By” and “Use By” dates.

Stay active, pay attention, and get prepared.

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