This is something we often ask ourselves as we're standing in front of the fridge sniffing a package of this or a jar of that. It looks and smells okay, but technically, it expired two days ago. What to do? More and more, we're siding with Bruce Feiler. As he states in his recent New York Times article, "It's time to take back the trash."The problem is two-fold. Concerns about food safety are everywhere. We hear about eggs being recalled and salmonella in peanut butter, and we get a little justifiably anxious about things like expiration dates. But at the same time, we're very conscious of wasting food. And throwing away that last scoop of yogurt the day after it expires makes us really wonder which is the greater evil.
In his research for the article, Feiler was told that expiration dates are actually less about food safety than they are about food quality. Meaning, food after the expiration date won't make you sick, but the manufacturer has determined that it's not quite as optimally pretty or tasty as they intend it to be.
In the majority of cases, that expiration date is put there by the manufacturer, not a government regulating agency. And as Feiler says, "Whom do you want to trust to tell you how long your food is good for? General Mills or general sense?"