Do You Eat Out Of Date Food?

>> Feb 6, 2010

Rifling through the fridge, trying to decide what to cook for dinner, I come across a packet of meatballs a day past their use by date.

'They'll do nicely'

I chop up some onion, crush some garlic and open a tin of tomatoes. Spaghetti and meatballs it is then. I have no qualms about eating food that is a day or two past its use by date, as long as it smells fine and it gets a good cooking I'm happy, and none of us have died yet

I cheerfully cook meat that is a couple of days old. I slice the mould of cheese and use what's underneath. I cut around bad or mouldy places on fruit and veg and use anyway and I not only eat these things myself, I feed them to my family, two young children and the husband.

The Food Standards Agency say 'you shouldn’t use any food after the ‘use by’ date even if the food looks and smells fine, because it might contain harmful bacteria.'  But how harmful is it really?  Despite what the government tells us, I have been cooking out of date food for years and not died yet, in fact I've only had a couple of incidents of diarrhea in my life and never food poisoning and the kids and hubby are thriving. So what gives?  Just how old can food get before it is really harmful?

Would you eat fish two days past it's use by date?  What about a chicken six days past, or thirteen day old bread?  Well apart from the fish I'm not sure I would, even in the name of science, but thankfully I don't have to.  Routing around on the internet about this stuff I found a piece from the 2008 in the Daily Mail where journalist Jonathon Maitland already did all that.  This is his 'out of date' diary.

My out of date diary

DAY ONE: Two Tesco eggs, one day past their Best Before date.

DAY TWO: One whole Marks & Spencer Scottish salmon fillet, two days past its Use-By date.

DAY THREE: Three-quarters of a Sainsbury's 'Taste the Difference' Top Crust steak pie (serves two), three days past its Use-By date.

DAY FOUR: Two Tesco Finest Pork and Fresh Bramley Apple sausages, four days past their Use-By date

DAY FIVE: One Asda fruit cocktail trifle, five days past its Use-By date.

DAY SIX: One Asda 'Smart Price' Chicken Breast Fillet, six days past its Use-By date.

DAY SEVEN: One full portion (250g) of Tesco 'Healthy Living' extra lean steak mince, seven days past its Use-By date.

DAY EIGHT: Asda Chinese Chicken in Black Bean Sauce with boiled rice, eight days past its Use-By date.

DAY NINE: M&S meat Moussaka, nine days past its Use-By date.

DAY TEN: One M&S carrot and orange muffin, ten days past its Best Before date.

DAY 11: Sainsbury's Lemon and Coriander Houmous, 11 days past its Use-By date.

DAY 12: One portion of Tesco 'Traditionally sliced' runner beans, 12 days past their
Use-By date.

DAY 13: One piece of Hovis original wheatgerm bread (toasted), three-and-a-half weeks past its Best Before date.

DAY 14: One bowl of Kellogg's Sultana Bran cereal, 12 weeks past its Best Before date.

Original article

And after all this he suffered no ill affects at all.  Which leaves me feeling both more confused and, because this 'use before' is so deeply ingrained in us, slightly nauseous.   However so does throwing the stuff away.

According to the Love Food Hate Waste campaign, 8.3 million tonnes of food is thrown away by households in the UK every year costing the average family £680.   If we all stop wasting food that could have been eaten, the CO2 impact would be the equivalent of taking 1 in 4 cars off the road.

That is one hell of an impact from uneaten food and it leaves me feeling somewhat justified in my cooking food passed its use by date and feeding my family with it, although I'm not willing to go to quite the same lengths as Mr Maitland.

What about you, do you eat out of date food or does the idea of it make you feel ill?

Other Family Related Questions:
Do You Let Your Kids Play Out?
The TV Dilemma: how do you manage it?
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