Hello my dear readers,
First of all, I want to thank you all for your kind words and support. I’m really grateful that you all enjoy this journey along with me. It keeps me motivated and willing to keep going, trying to accommodate my work and blogging at the same time.
So here I am with another post.
How many times have we eaten foods that have expired just a few days back, thinking there were no risks?
To avoid waste, try to organize your groceries so that the foods do not reach the expiration date.
Or how many times happened to open the package of an expired food, to check if it was smelly and decide whether to consume it or not?
Often, in order not to throw food away, we make little conscious choices and, in some cases, a little too rash. When it comes to expiration date, however, attention and caution are needed because eating expired foods is a risk to our health that should never be underestimated.
Below you will find all the useful tips to avoid waste and protect your health.
What does “to be consumed preferably” mean
Even if they seem the same, they are not, there is a substantial difference between the two below terms. It is therefore good to always distinguish between the two types of food, following simple rules.
To be consumed before: Indicates a date after which the product is no longer suitable for consumption: by that date, if properly stored, it retains all its characteristics. After this date the product can be harmful to health due to the proliferation of bacteria, resulting in food poisoning determined by the direct action of pathogenic bacteria together with the food or due to the presence of toxins produced by pathogens.
In general the most common food poisonings are Salmonella, Clostridium perfrigens and Bacillus cereus. The most frequent intoxications are botulism and Staphylococcus aureus intoxications.
Best before: In this case, the minimum storage term indicates the date by which the product, always if properly stored, maintains its specific properties. We speak of organoleptic and nutritional quality, therefore of satisfaction and quality of the product rather than its safety. This food can be eaten for a few days after the expiration date, but it is not guaranteed that its nutritional properties will remain intact. Only salt, sugar, vinegar, alcoholic beverages are exceptions.
Thus it happens that yogurt can also be consumed ten to fifteen days after its expiration, while extra virgin olive oil and pasta remain well maintained even up to six months later. Instead, it is preferable to consume eggs no later than one week from the expiry date.
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Eating expired foods: how the validity system works
Don’t buy more than you need and plan your meals so that everything you have in your pantry is consumed in time.
If you ate expired foods and nothing happened to you, you were lucky.
The expiry date, in fact, is calculated according to a precautionary principle to limit the risks as much as possible, since it is not possible to accurately predict the speed of bacterial proliferation and therefore when the food can become dangerous.
This means that it is likely that a product, just one day after its expiry, will not be harmful: in order not to take unnecessary risks, it is always good to strictly adhere to the date indicated and throw the food away after the expiry date.
Eating expired foods, the consequences on your body
It’s all a matter of luck. If you eat expired foods, absolutely nothing could happen to you, just as you could get food poisoning.
The state of malaise could only resolve itself with a stomach ache, vomiting and diarrhea, but something more serious could also happen than having to spend a few hours in the bathroom. In the most severe cases these intoxications or toxic infections can cause damage to organs, even more or less permanent.
Many think that the best way to recognize expired foods is to smell them: nothing could be more false!
Most bacteria do not smell, so smelling a food is not a good way to tell if you can still eat after it expires, because toxins have no smell.
A food can already be harmful to your health long before it smells or tastes abnormal, when this happens bacterial growth is already terribly advanced.
Foods most at risk after expiry
There are foods that, when consumed after the expiration date, are more at risk than others.
Fresh cheeses, meat, fish, milk and eggs deteriorate more quickly due to proteins of animal origin.
Milk, in particular, is a perfect breeding ground for pathogens, and the risk of adverse effects on your health is high. This risk increases greatly if you consume raw milk, which is not pasteurized to keep its nutritional properties intact. Raw milk can only be kept for 1 or 2 days in the fridge: if boiled shortly after purchase, it can last for 4 or 5 days.
How to store food once opened
Once the package is opened, the stated expiration date loses its value. Often on the same label the methods and storage times after opening are indicated, but this information is not mandatory by law.
In general, open foods should always be kept in the refrigerator and eaten “within a short time”.
For example, unpackaged chicken can stay in the refrigerator 1-2 days if raw and 3-4 days if cooked. Fresh meat 3-5 days, minced meat 1-2 days, cold cuts 3-5 days.
In any case, it is good to check that the temperature of the fridge is adequate. Remember that the ideal is to always keep it between 1.5 and 3.5 degrees Celsius, increasing the temperature when it is fuller and decreasing it as you consume the food. The growth of bacteria, in fact, begins to triple around 4.5 degrees, while at 0 degrees, the freezing process begins which, if not carried out properly, risks ruining the nutritional properties of food.
Frozen foods: what to do
The cold slows down, but does not stop bacterial proliferation, so a food, even if stored in the freezer, does not have an infinite life.
As for frozen foods, it is important to respect the expiry date. For frozen foods, that are those foods that you buy fresh and put in the freezer, storage times are longer.
However, it is important to consume them quickly to avoid risks.
When you want to freeze a food, you must do it within 1-2 days of purchase at the latest. Keeping meat in the fridge and then freezing it when it has almost gone bad is a very serious mistake.
If, in fact, you put in the freezer a food that already has a high bacterial load from the start, this will reach “dangerous” values long before the time indicated on the label.
Foods with no expiration date: the rules to follow
This category includes products such as sugar, salt, vinegar, wine, pepper, chilli. Even if they are foods that “don’t expire”, it is important to pay attention to their conservation. Oxygen, light and temperature are harmful to all products. It is good to protect any food from these three agents by storing them in cool, dry and possibly dark places.
When can we still eat a food, even if it has passed the expiration date indicated on the label?
There are a whole series of products for which the law does not require to indicate the minimum conservation term. In particular, these are:
- Fresh fruit and vegetables
- Beverages with an alcohol content of 10 percent or more by volume
- Wines, liqueur wines, sparkling wines, aromatised wines and similar products
- Cooking salt
- Solid state sugars
The best way to avoid eating expired food, avoid any food poisonings or intoxication and avoid food waste is to not overbuy.
These products can therefore be consumed even long after their expiry. The important thing is to check that the product has been stored properly.
For example, olive oil is damaged if exposed to light and excessive heat sources.
Furthermore, to understand if a particular food is still edible or not, it is always good to check its consistency.
Don’t buy 2 chickens if you know you only eat one.
Don’t buy 1 kg of mozzarella if you know you can only eat 100 g.
Unfortunately the food waste is a big issue in our world. According to Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations there is a total food wastage of 1.3 billion tonnes every year.
While some people waste their food, on the other side, world hunger has slowly but steadily increased in recent years. In 2018, approximately 820 million people worldwide were undernourished, up from 785 million people four years ago.
It is never too late to start doing your part.
Please be responsible and think twice before wasting any food!
Bye bye for now!
Wish you a lovely weekend!
Photos credit: Pixabay edited by Popsicle Society
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It is still work in progress but I would love to know what you think about it? 😉