Looks and smells can sometimes be deceiving, which is why those expiration dates stamped on the packaging can guide you in the right direction and help prevent illness. From creamy cheeses to sandwich staples, it’s best to toss these foods once they’ve past their given expiration date unless you want to roll the dice on an extra sick day.
A full carton of eggs has a little more leeway than their boxed substitutes, but both should be consumed in a timely manner. If you’re debating whether to finish off that two-week old carton of whites—don’t. ‘It’s very safe to keep eggs in the refrigerator for three to five weeks if they’re raw and in the shell. For egg substitute products, you have about three to five days on average once they’re open. If they’re unopened you have about 10 days.
Harder cheeses like cheddar or gouda have a longer shelf life because it’s more difficult for bacteria and mold to permeate them. Once opened, hard cheeses may last up to six months in the refrigerator. However, softer cheeses like ricotta, cream cheese, or goat cheese, are more susceptible to mold and bacteria and should be tossed at the first sign of spoiling or once the expiration date has passed. As a general rule of thumb, softer cheeses last about one week in the refrigerator after opening.
Food in jars
It may seem like spreads and sauces last forever, but just because they’re in a glass jar, tucked away in the cool refrigerator doesn’t mean they’re untouchable by bacteria. ‘Once you’ve opened the lid that safety seal is broken and you should be using that condiment in a timely fashion. Jarred condiments tend to have more exposure to bacteria and therefore could lead to food borne illness if not trashed at the appropriate time. If you see any water floating on top, any discoloration or weird smells—just toss it.
Similar to jarred spreads like mayo and mustard, potato or egg salads are more susceptible to bacteria growth because they have more instances of exposure. Taking a few scoops at a time from the container introduces more bacteria and increases risk of contamination leading to food borne illness. Salads like these are often pushed to the back of the fridge and forgotten about, giving time for that bacteria to grow and for that food to spoil.
Green juices should not find a permanent home in your refrigerator. Cold-pressed or raw juices are incredibly popular among the health-conscious because they’re nutrient-dense, but it’s important to consume them very soon after buying. Unlike typical processed juices which undergo pasteurization to kill off harmful bacteria and increase shelf life, these raw juices are not pasteurized, making them much more prone to bacteria contamination. Only buy from your local juice bar what you plan to drink in the next 48-72 hours if you want to avoid getting sick.
With fresh meat you’re usually dealing with a ‘sell by’ date, which tells the store the last day it can keep that product out for sale. What does this mean for you? You either need to eat it or freeze it when you get home. A lot of fresh raw meat is also contaminated with Salmonella, E. coli, or other bacteria. With that in mind, it’s very important to cook the meat at the proper temperatures as a greater defense against bacteria.
Ham and turkey slices will only last about three to five days, so it’s important to only buy what you’ll realistically eat during that period. Prepackaged deli meats sold in air-tight packaging will last a little longer than the fresh-sliced varieties if they’re unopened, but as soon as you crack the seal you’re working with the same three- to five-day consumption window for safe eating. Deli meat in particular is susceptible to a certain kind of bacteria called Listeria, which can multiply in cold environments like your refrigerator, so just because it’s cold doesn’t mean it’s completely protected. If the deli meat is a little slimy or giving off a funky smell, then that’s a good sign it needs to go.