Something for The Wife to note: Expiration dates are not meaningful
Certainly not as meaningful as the smell and appearance of the food. The Wife is a demon at discarding foods that are past the expiry date, whereas I often feel I’m just getting to know the food by that point. (That’s why I regularly check the sale bin of meats at the point of their sell-by dates (not the same as the expiry date): 50% off just because today is the sell-by date? If it’s a meat I want, I’ll buy it in a heartbeat.) Consider how you judge leftovers: you check smell and appearance, right?
Dan Charles explains at NPR:
Now that the Christmas feast is over, you may be looking at all the extra food you made, or the food that you brought home from the store that never even got opened.
And you may be wondering: How long can I keep this? What if it’s past its expiration date? Who even comes up with those dates on food, anyway, and what do they mean?
Here’s the short answer: Those “sell by” dates are there to protect the reputation of the food. They have very little to do with food safety. If you’re worried whether food is still OK to eat, just smell it.
One of the places that knows most about the shelf life of food is a scientific establishment in Livermore, Calif., called the National Food Lab. At the NFL, they put food on shelves for days, or weeks, or even years, to see how it holds up.
Sometimes, they’ll try to accelerate the process with 90-degree heat and high humidity.
And then, from time to time, they’ll take some of the food — whether it’s bagged salad greens, breakfast cereal, or fruit juice — off the shelf and place it in front of a highly trained panel of experts who check the taste and smell and texture.
“You would think that everybody can taste and smell food, but some of us are much better at it than others,” says Jena Roberts, vice president for business development at the NFL. The lab has 40 of these food tasters on staff. “They are the most fit people in the group,” says Roberts. “Because they don’t eat the food. They expectorate it. Which is a fancy college word for spit it in a cup.”
The experts give the food grades, in numbers. The numbers go down as the food gets older. Bread gets stale. Salad dressings can start to taste rancid. . .