Is It Safe to Eat Expired Food?

Not all dates mean it's time to toss food

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Almost all food products have expiration dates or codes on them these days. But what happens if you keep an item on the shelf after the expiration date? Is it safe to eat?

    Studies show Americans waste about 14% of the foot they buy each year. This is like throwing away $600 dollars a year. So it pays to know what's edible and how long you can keep it around.

    Many people throw away food that's good to eat these days simply because it is past its expiration date. Many times, a product is still perfectly safe.

    According to registered Dietician Beth Czerwony of the Cleveland Clinic, eggs are still good two weeks beyond their expiration date and milk lasts about a week.

    "The higher fat milks," she said," are going to spoil a little bit faster than skim milk."

    But she added, if you check the milk and it is off-color or smells off, it is better to dump it.

    Other products last longer than you think. Cottage cheese will last for 10 to 14 days past the expiration date on the cartoon. Mayonnaise can be kept unopened for 30 days beyond its expiration date. Yogurt remains good a week to 10 days after its sell-by date. The only foods that are required to carry "dates" by the federal government are infant formula and baby food.

    Most states require markets to sell milk and other perishables before their expiration dates, but stores are not legally required to remove food from their shelves once the expiration date is passed.

    These dates are strictly advisory in nature. You should pay attention to the "sell by" code and not buy a product after this date.

    A "best if used by" code only means the flavor or quality is best up until this date, but it is likely still edible afterward.

    And a "use by" date is the last day the manufacturer will vouch for the product's quality.

    "The use by date," noted Czerwony, " is really where the highest quality is going to be for nutritional value, flavor, texture, that type of thing."

    She said the sell by date is a store by store thing --each one having its own policy as to when products have to be moved of their shelves.

    For more information on whether to keep food after its date or toss it, check out "Food Expiration Dates: What do they Really mean?" on Yahoo! Green.