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Ross: The big lie of food expiration dates

Expired milk in a Seattle-area fridge. (MyNorthwest photo)

When I got to work Tuesday morning – by which I mean when I walked downstairs – one of the first headlines I saw was about a big lie. But it wasn’t that big lie, it was about a lie I’ve complained about long before Trump: the lie of food expiration dates.

This has been a sore subject in my family for years. We tend to keep a lot of earthquake food, and when you do that, you’re going to end up with stuff that is dated from the last big earthquake, which was in 2001.

And the discussion has always been as follows: One person says, “I’m never eating that, just throw it out,” and the other person (me) says, “The seal is intact, the can is not swelling, it is perfectly fine, bon appetit!”

So we end up eating separate dinners, one fresh, one expired.

Well, imagine my joy when I saw an extensively-researched article at Vox.com headlined “The lie of ‘expired’ food and the disastrous truth of America’s food waste problem.”

It pointed out that American families throw away around $2,000 worth of edible food a year because of the expiration dates. Which wastes money and farmland, and probably makes climate change worse, since everything does.

But as the article points out, the dates are not based on any kind of rigorous testing but are designed to get you to eat the food while it’s still fresh and tasty.

I don’t blame the manufacturers for that, but the point is the dates have nothing to do with safety.

I already knew this. I have successfully eaten 15-year-old freeze-dried spaghetti and canned tomato paste from the last decade.

And as the article points out, even at their freshest, foods like cheese, yogurt, and sour cream are basically forms of spoiled milk. Bottom line: “Old” does not always equal “dangerous.”

So I recommend the article, even if you still end up throwing out your dated food. My main reason for this commentary is that if someone is listening upstairs, she now knows that no less a source than Vox.com is backing up what I’ve been saying for years.

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