Is Eating Expired Food Safe?

How to tell if it's still okay to eat expired eggs, dried goods, milk and meat.

Plus: Video: How to Get the Most Out of Ground Beef »

If you trash your grub as soon as the expiration date hits, you're not alone. A recent survey found that 90 percent of Americans do the same--even though that date might only indicate the food's peak quality. Slash your grocery bills (without risking your health) by finding out how long past the date these staples are edible.

EGGS

  • How long they really last: Three weeks past the sell-by date in the fridge; one year in the freezer (out of shell).
  • Safety tip: Store in their original carton in the fridge instead of in egg cradles in the door, where they'd be more vulnerable to temperature changes as it opens and closes.

Plus: 16 Ways to Cook Eggs »

DRIED GOODS (including pasta, flour and rice)

  • How long they really last: Pasta and white rice last 8 to 10 years; white flour lasts 1 year from purchase date. Whole grains (brown rice and whole-wheat pasta and flour) keep in the pantry one to two months after the best-by date or a year in the freezer.
  • Safety tip: Fresh, refrigerated pasta lasts a mere two to three days past the sell-by date. Whole grains contain fats that can go bad, so keep them cool and dry.

MILK

  • How long it really lasts: One week past the sell-by date in the fridge, one month in the freezer (leave room for expansion).
  • Safety tip: Bad milk turns yellowish, curdles and smells--all signs it's time to dispose of it.

MEAT

  • How long it really lasts: In the fridge, three to five days after purchase for whole cuts of meat, one to two days for ground meat or chicken; in the freezer, about six months for whole meat, four months for ground, nine months for poultry.
  • Safety tip: Cook meat thoroughly to kill bacteria. Use a meat thermometer to make sure large pieces hit a safe temperature: 145 degrees Fahrenheit for beef (160 degrees Fahrenheit for ground beef) and 165 degrees Fahrenheit for chicken.

Plus: 31 Weeknight Chicken Recipes »

We asked ALL YOU readers: Would you eat expired food?

  • 87% say yes. "Absolutely! I buy battered cereal boxes and slightly expired cake mixes. As long as the inner package is not broken, they will last much longer than their expiration date." --Bonnie Miller, 50, Falmouth, Ind.
  • 13% say no. "I tried having tomato soup that was slightly expired, and it tasted funky. I don't mess with dairy that's past its date at all. If anything's expired, I toss it--it's not worth being sick!" --Kathi Kull, 38, Spokane, Wash.

 

Sources: Melissa Joy Dobbins, RDN, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics spokeswoman; and Janice Revell, co-founder of stilltasty.com.