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These Expired Foods May Be Hiding in Your Kitchen—Or on Your Plate

Bob Vila logo Bob Vila 12/9/2020 Kitchenistic

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Many of us have eaten foods that should have been used long before. While this is sometimes a case of daring in the form of leftover roulette, from time to time we eat this food unintentionally as it can be complicated to work out when items may be unsafe to eat. 

In many instances, eating food a few days past its best freshness will not lead to harm, although it may taste less flavorful than if it had been eaten sooner. However, other times it can lead to minor or serious digestive upset. Below is a list of the expired food you might be eating without even realizing.

Hot Dogs

Processed meats tend to have a much longer shelf-life than fresh cuts of meat. Keep in mind that food expiration depends on whether the hot dogs have been exposed to air. If a new package is left unopened, hot dogs will continue to stay good in the refrigerator for a couple weeks. However as soon as you open a package, you have less than a week to eat them—unless you cook them, which will give you an extra week. 

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Hard Cheeses

Many people do eat hard cheeses after the expiration date, and some people eat cheese even after the discovery of mold. While it is vital to ensure that you cut away moldy bits before eating cheese found in this way, it might be a good idea to avoid it altogether. Hard cheese ought to be safe to eat if you cut away the mold (the Mayo Clinic suggests cutting at least one inch around and under the moldy portion), but you do need to consider just how long a hard cheese will stay safe to eat. Hard cheeses are usually good in your refrigerator for up to a month.

Deli Meat

You may think that the plastic packaging helps keep your deli meat fresh, but the moment the slices are taken from the deli counter they begin to decline. Most sliced meats should be eaten within three days otherwise you may experience stomach upset. There are some obvious signs that your deli meat has gone off, namely if it feels very slimy or smells yeasty. If you spot any mold on the deli meat then do not eat it.

Bacon

Many bacon options are considered to be cured meat, so it may seem like it ought to last for ages if correctly stored in your refrigerator. In fact, you should be eating bacon within about a week. Raw bacon is best if cooked within a couple of days of purchase and then it should keep in your fridge for an extra few days after being cooked.

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Eggs

Consuming eggs past the expiration date is not a good idea. As luck would have it, you do not need to crack open your eggs to work out whether they are still safe to consume. Simply pop the eggs into a glass or bowl of water. If they sink then they are safe to eat. If the egg floats, it has started to go bad. Eggs can keep for up to a month after you buy them.

Mayonnaise

The use-by dates on jars of mayonnaise can be misleading because they refer to the stable shelf life of the product prior to being opened. However, the moment the jar is opened the mayonnaise will begin to decline even when properly stored. After opening, mayonnaise should be used within a couple of months. Make sure to place mayonnaise in the fridge and do not leave out long enough to reach room temperature. The FDA recommends throwing away mayonnaise that has been left out for more than two hours (although unopened mayonnaise does not need to be refrigerated).

RELATED – 19 Things in Your Home That May Have Expired

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Condiments

You might not even consider the expiration dates of your condiments but you should. Indeed, these are some of the most common expired foods hiding in many homes. Although most unopened condiments have long shelf lives, they don’t last forever in the fridge. Check for changes in uniformity and color, and use the smell test to see if you think they are still safe to use.

Tomato Sauce

Similar to any other cooking sauce, the instant you open cans or jars of tomato sauce you will have exposed it to the air, and that leads to spoilage. Notwithstanding the use-by dates that you find on the label, you need to judge for yourself if an opened product is still safe to consume. It is important to use opened tomato sauces within a couple of days.

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General Leftovers

The meal was great and so you want to keep what you can for the following day to prevent wasting food. But even if you have stored your leftovers appropriately in air-tight plastic containers, you must eat this food within two days otherwise you may be eating food that has gone bad. Ensure leftovers cool down in the fridge and not on the counter otherwise they will be contaminated with bacteria before you even store them. Foods will last much longer in the freezer, up to several months, depending on what it is and how well it was stored.

In short, keep track of when you bought food, when you opened it, or when you cooked it to help you determine if it is still good to eat.

A version of this content was originally published at Kitchenistic.com.

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