Would You Eat ‘Expired’ Food?

The former head of a popular grocery chain has announced his intention to open a new kind of market that sells “expired” food from other chains and it has a lot of people asking all kinds of questions – some of which we hope to answer here.

The idea that food expires by the date printed on its label is just that – an idea. In fact, it’s more like a myth. Most food with an expiration date is perfectly fine for a fair amount of time beyond that date and the Natural Resources Defense Council estimates that 40% of edible food produced in the U.S. each year – valued at some $165 billion – is thrown out like garbage.

That should give anyone pause. Nearly half of all food in the U.S. is being wasted, and so it’s really no surprise why a person might think there’s a better place for that food besides the landfill. But, is it safe?

Food Expiration Dates Explained

Expiration dates are a product of the 70s and like so many other well-meaning things that came from that era they are largely misunderstood.

Expiration dates, “best by” dates and “sell by” dates all refer to peak freshness – not edibility. This applies to all food. Of course, all food eventually goes bad (yes, even Twinkies), but food producers are not the ones who make the final call.

Legality of Reselling ‘Expired’ Food

So, let’s say it’s safe to eat this so-called “expired” food. Is it legal to sell it, or resell it?

Expiration dates are not federally mandated or monitored by the Food and Drug Administration, which means those labels carry no legal weight. Arguably, that opens the door for those food products to be sold (or resold) after they “expire.”

The law, of course, is more complex than that. In this case, the proposed food market will be selling food that has been donated by other grocers that will then be able to take a tax deduction for said donation. So, in this instance it’s not a matter of resale.

Food Storage Facts: Spoilage vs. Pathogens

The “Rule of Fours” – often applied to unpackaged or raw meat products that will stay fresh for at least four days if kept at 40ºF or below – is a conservative guideline for food storage, but it’s important to note the difference between spoilage and the presence of pathogens.

Spoilage alone will not make a person sick, so say the scientists. Pathogens that cause food-borne illnesses are odorless and invisible and are unrelated to the bacteria that cause spoilage. This is powerful knowledge to have when it comes to saving money by breaking the habit of throwing out perfectly edible food.

ATGStores.com hopes this info will help people save more food and even more money.

Storing bread in the fridge promotes staling and will not preserve it better than storing it at room temperature in a bread drawer like this from Rev-A-Shelf

You can use a banana hanger like this one from Lipper International to store your bananas at room temperature, but once ripe you can slow over-ripening by putting them in the fridge.

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