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LiveBest: Is it safe to eat?
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LiveBest: Is it safe to eat?

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After a sniff and a bite, I threw out 2 boxes of crackers and some nuts this week. And I hate to throw out food.

If you’re like me, you’ve looked in your cupboards more this past month than ever before.

As you’re deciding what to keep, what to eat, and what to toss, don’t rely solely on the date printed on the package.

These dates are suggestions for peak quality and don’t indicate safety. So jam may fade in color, but is still safe to eat. A cake may not rise quite as high. The can of crab I found was a couple years old, but was safe to eat. The crackers? The sniff and taste revealed they were rancid, so I tossed them. Same with the nuts. With just a whiff, you’ll know when the milk is bad. If it smells sour, it’s time to pour it out, if not, drink it.

Baby food and formula are the exceptions. Don’t want to use these beyond the Use-By date because of potential nutrient loss.

Otherwise, here are some tips to help you decide what goes and what stays.

  • Unopened condiments, such as mustard and BBQ sauce, will fade over time with changes in flavor, texture or color, but are still safe to eat 8-12 months after the Sell-By date.
  • Oils become rancid over time, so smell them to see if they have an off odor. If it does, toss. Store oils in a dark cupboard away from heat or refrigerate for longer storage. Nuts are rich in oil, so can become rancid. They are best stored airtight in the freezer or refrigerator and they’re good until they aren’t, so if they become rancid, toss.
  • Egg pasta may develop an off flavor after 18 months. Whole-wheat pasta has oils than can get rancid, but otherwise, pasta can be used 3 years after the Best-By date.
  • Sugar, salt and all-purpose flour don’t really have a shelf life. If you have bugs or notice an off flavor, toss. The oils in whole-grains flours can become rancid, so best to store them in the fridge or freezer.
  • Dried beans, lentils and split peas, honey, tea, cocoa, rice can last for years.
  • Vinegar lasts indefinitely though the flavor may mellow.
  • Baking powder and baking soda become less effective over time but can still be used for cleaning.
  • Unless they are bulging or dented, canned goods can last for years.

If you have questions, www.StillTasty.com is a website devoted to food safety and shelf life.

So that crab? I made a crab salad. If you find canned salmon or tuna, try that.

The salad went like this: Drained crab, quartered hard cooked egg, lettuce, chopped cucumber, shredded carrot, chopped avocado, a bit of sliced red onion, canned beets, and blue cheese crumbles. Drizzle on vinaigrette. You guys, this felt like a party!!

If you have food to share, think about a food bank. They can really use it now.

Judy Barbe is a registered dietitian, speaker and author.

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