Can you eat expired food if it hasn’t been opened?

In this article, we answer the following question: Can you eat expired food if it hasn’t been opened? We tell you what food you can eat even if it’s out of date, and what food you should avoid and never try to consume if expired!

Can you eat expired food if it hasn’t been opened?

You can eat some expired food if it hasn’t been opened, but this answer is not valid for every product in your pantry and/or fridge. Some food can be consumed days, weeks, months, or even years (canned foods, for example) even if they are out of date. Other products (such as meat or fish) should never be consumed if expired, even if they were kept in the original package. 

Most dry foods are safe to eat soon after their minimum durability date, but a few fresh foods can also be eaten, such as yogurt, which you can keep for about up to 7 more days!

On the other hand, for other categories of food, it is essential and even vital to strictly respect the use-by date.

Types of food that you should NEVER eat after it has expired

1. Delicatessen food

Even if you only have that slice of raw ham that’s been dated for a few days, don’t eat it. Whether its smell is strong or tolerable, it is better to get rid of it. By consuming it, you expose yourself to a risk of bacterial contamination. 

Salmonella, the most common bacteria found in cold cuts, is dangerous and can be fatal, especially in older people. Pregnant women are also at an increased risk of miscarriage. Cold cuts must be consumed the same day.

2. Red meat

Obsolete red meat should also be banned from your refrigerator. In particular minced meat, because the surface of the meat with the air is increased, which thus increases the risk of the development of bacteria such as salmonella, listeria, or staphylococci. These bacteria cause digestive disorders important and potentially serious symptoms. 

As for minced meat on demand from the butcher, it must be consumed within 12 hours. In general, spoiled meat is easily detected: its odor is unpleasant and its color becomes brownish. As soon as there is any doubt, no matter how small, don’t take any chances.

3. Fresh fish

As with cold cuts or red meat, it is preferable to consume fresh fish the same day or the day after purchase. Avoid leaving it in your refrigerator for too long to avoid contamination. More generally, we must be vigilant about the conservation of everything that is bought by the cut. Fresh fish should be, as the name suggests, eaten fresh. If his skin is dull and his eye is no longer sharp, don’t eat it.

4. Eggs

You have to be very careful with the eggs. These can normally be eaten up to 28 days after laying, but the eggs sometimes stay on the shelves in supermarkets for 21 days. 

For hard-boiled eggs, nutritionists advise us not to exceed three weeks after the laying date.  The membrane of the egg, more or less porous, becomes thinner and the risk is that the germs will pass.

When shopping, therefore, favor eggs on the nearest laying dates. The same goes for all other foods in general, try to pay attention to the expiration dates. 

Finally, if the shell is cracked, the egg should be discarded. If the shell is dirty, it is best to avoid washing it underwater as this decreases the impermeability of the shell and increases the risk of contamination.

5. Cooked meals

Meals prepared with expiration dates should also be eliminated from your cupboards. Especially those with sauces and creams, which is almost the majority of ready meals, which should be eaten immediately. The rest can be eaten up to two days after the expiry date indicated on the package. 

6. Cheese

As with wine, we often (wrongly) think that cheese is better when it ages. It is left to ripen at the bottom of the bin in the hope of an appearance of sensational flavors. Nay. It all depends on the preparation method. 

For example, a cheese made from raw milk, that is to say unpasteurized, should be avoided entirely if it has expired. The rest, on the other hand, can still be consumed for a few days after the fateful date, but not more than a week. Finally, whether for cheese or any other food, when traces of mold appear, it is better to refrain from eating it.

What stale foods can I eat?

Rice, pasta, cornstarch, flour, cereals, and also cans of food can be eaten very long after the expiration date has expired. These products can only degrade if there is an infestation of food mites. For canned goods, if they start to swell (which is extremely rare), they are no longer good. This mainly concerns acidic products like tomato or pineapple.

Foods that you can eat even if they are out of date:

  • Honey, which can be stored for life;
  • Chocolate, which can be consumed for up to two years after its expiration date;
  • Dry products, such as pasta, rice, or lentils, which can be stored for several months in an airtight package;
  • Cans, as long as they do not have a rounded appearance;
  • UHT milk, which has been pasteurized and can be drunk two months after its expiration date;
  • Soft cheeses (Camembert), goats, sheep’s cheese, blue cheeses (Roquefort, blue) up to two weeks after the MDD;
  • Frozen foods can be stored for several months after their expiration date, as long as they are never thawed. More precisely, fruits and vegetables have a shelf life of 30 months, ready meals 24 months, poultry 18 months, baked pastry 18 months, breaded fish 24 months, fish 24 months, minced meat 9 months, and crustaceans 12 months;
  • Spices, which never go bad. At worst, they can lose their flavor;
  • Sugar, which also never expires;
  • Flour, which can be kept for years, unless small critters take up residence in your package;
  • The salt which is imperishable;
  • Freeze-dried products, such as coffee or soup in sachets;
  • Dry cookies that have not been opened or that have been stored in an airtight tin. However, if the cookies are soft, consider recycling them into a cheesecake or crumble base rather than throwing them away.

Be careful, all foods from the same food family do not have the same storage characteristics. Thus, in the dairy product family, all fresh or ultra-fresh products that can be kept in the refrigerator (yogurts, fermented milk, fresh cheeses, fresh creams, dairy desserts, etc.) have a best before date (BBD) and should not be consumed beyond of that date.

The bottom line

In this article, we answered the following question: Can you eat expired food if it hasn’t been opened? We told you what food you can eat even if it’s out of date, and what food you should avoid and never try to consume if expired!

We do not encourage you to consume expired food, even if it hasn’t been opened. First, it will most likely lose its nutritional properties and flavor. Second, you are at risk of contracting a foodborne illness.

This being said, some food, such as canned food, can be consumed even after 100 years. Yes, you read right! So, the choice is yours, and only yours – but make sure you stay safe and do not put your health at risk.

If you have any questions about the content, please let us know!

References

Cdc.gov

Webmd.com

MedlinePlus.gov

Hi, I am Charlotte, I love cooking and in my previous life, I was a chef. I bring some of my experience to the recipes on this hub and answer your food questions.