Washington Evening Journal
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Neighbors Growing Together | Oct 31, 2014

Is it still good?

Tossing food that has expired
By Iowa State University Extension Service | Mar 27, 2013

AMES — Deciding what food is safe to eat and what food should be tossed can be confusing, given the various terms used with dates printed on food containers. The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) defines each of the terms as follows:

• 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.

For safety concerns, these dates are more important for perishable foods such as meat, poultry, dairy and eggs. It is recommended to use food by the “use-by date.” Smelling food to determine if it is safe is not always effective. Many bacteria that cause foodborne illnesses cannot be seen, smelled or tasted. Even if the consumer thinks the food —  such as lunch meat — smells and looks fine, it is best not to consume after the “use-by” or expiration date. If you want to keep the food longer than that date, freeze it. Milk that has been properly refrigerated (40 degrees F) is safe to consume for one week past the “sell by” date.

For concerns about canned foods, high-acid foods (such as tomatoes or pineapple) will have the best quality if used within 12 to 18 months. Low-acid foods (such as meat, fish, or vegetables) will retain the best quality if used within 2 to 5 years. These rules apply only if the can remains in good condition and is stored in a cool, clean, dry place. Use the first in, first out (FIFO) method to be sure the oldest cans are used first. When putting away groceries, place the recently purchased items behind the existing food. It is recommended that home-canned foods be used within one year for best quality.

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