We’ve all done it: sniffing the contents of our refrigerator in search of funky smells or mold. Is it still good? Is it okay to eat? The language used to label foods can be confusing and misleading – and the “sell by” date, the “best if used by” date, and the “use by” date usually concern freshness more than safety. So, how do we know if food is still safe to consume? Sites like StillTasty.com and EatByDate.com record how far past their supposed “best by” dates foods are still edible. Here are a few commonly questionable foods:
Eggs. Eggs stay good for up to 3-5 weeks in the refrigerator and up to one year in the freezer. To ensure eggs stay their freshest, store them in the coolest part of the fridge.
Milk. Milk will stay fresh one week past the sell by date, and three months in the freezer. Obviously, if milk has developed a bad odor or flavor, it’s best to throw it away. Soy and almond milk will last 7-10 days past the printed date. Almond milk, however, will stay fresh for up to one month past the expiration date if left unopened.
Yogurt. You have 7-10 days to enjoy that yogurt after its expiration date; two if stored in the freezer (be sure to thaw). If mold appears, throw the product away.
Peanut Butter. An open jar of peanut butter will remain fresh up to three months in the pantry. After this point, its best to store peanut butter in the fridge where it can stay fresh for an extra 3-4 months.
Without refrigeration, oil separation may occur.
Pickles. Open jars of pickles stay good for a whole year in the refrigerator. The same goes for olives and capers.
Honey. Honey’s quality will not change over time. The low water content and high acidic level of honey makes the food a harsh environment for bacteria.
Mustard. Store bought mustard lasts one to two years past its expiration date. It lasts an extra year when left unopened in the pantry.
Whipped Cream. Canned whipped cream can last up to three months past its printed date. Cool whip only lasts about 7-10 days.
Butter. Butter lasts about 2 weeks after its expiration date. Frozen butter lasts up to 9 months longer.
Deli Meat. Packaged lunch meats last about 7-10 days past the best by date, whereas fresh meats will last around 5-6 days longer. Salami and pepperoni last longer than – around 2-3 weeks.
Syrup. Syrup never technically spoils. Even if it become thicker, darker or even crystallizes it is still good to eat.
Tea. Whether it’s packaged or loose, tea will last anywhere from 6 months to a year past the expiration date.
Spices. Most spices last 2-3 years past their expiration date.
Olive Oil. Olive oil stays fresh for 18-24 months regardless of refrigeration. It’s best to store olive oil in a cool, dark place.
Ketchup. Ketchup will maintain its freshness and quality for 6 months in the fridge. It’s still safe to eat after this date. Discard the product if it develops a bad odor or mold appears.