Is My Food Safe to Eat?


Sell by date. Expiration date. Use-by date–so many dates on the outside of a package, but can foods become dangerous if not consumed before they expire? A rule of thumb is if you haven’t used a product by the expiration date, it’s time to toss it!

Most of the other dates on the package focus on freshness, flavor, and texture and not food safety. The problem is not all foods are labeled with an expiration date because it’s not required unless it’s infant formula. According to the USDA, foods that are stored properly can be safe past their expiration date. So how do you know if your food is safe to eat? The answer is generally right under your nose, but use caution with these foods that are likely to cause sickness if spoiled.

  • Seafood, especially oysters and shrimp. Seafood should be eaten or frozen within a day or two of purchase. Eating spoiled oysters can result in major infection in the bloodstream from a potentially fatal bacteria called V. vulnificus.

  • Leafy greens. If your green veggies are turning colors and developing slime, it’s time to throw it out! It will often smell pretty bad too! Leafy greens have been a carrier of dangerous pathogens they can come in contact with contaminated water or soil.

  • Raw eggs. It’s never safe to consume raw eggs, but the truth of the matter is people still do! In fact, the most frequent cases of food poisoning from listeria monocytogenes bacteria occur from eating eggs past their due date. Moral of the story, always cook your eggs!

  • Soft cheese. Don’t eat spoiled soft cheese like brie. They can easily grow dangerous pathogens that can make you sick.

  • Deli meats. Deli meat, especially those with minimal preservatives should be consumed within 3 days of purchase. E coli and listeria bacteria can quickly multiply on spoiled deli meat.

  • Poultry. Poultry is highly perishable and should be eaten or frozen within a day or two of purchasing.

And remember, always use good food safety practices. Cook foods to proper temperature and store cold food, cold and hot food, hot. Don’t allow food to sit in the temperature danger zone, 40-140 degrees F, because this is where pathogens grow rapidly even if the food hasn’t “expired”.


About Tara Gidus

Tara Gidus, MS, RDN, CSSD is a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist and co-host of Emotional Mojo TV show. She is the Team Dietitian for the Orlando Magic NBA basketball team, the Nutrition Consultant for the University of Central Florida (UCF) Athletics, and the Official Nutritionist for runDisney. She co-authored The Flat Belly Cookbook for Dummies (2014) and Pregnancy Cooking & Nutrition for Dummies (2012).

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