The other day I found a tomato in my fridge that had mold on it. I cut the mold off but ate the rest of the tomato. Is that okay?
Too often, people rely on Best By, Sell By, and Expiration dates to know when to throw away food. This is a flawed way of thinking for so many reasons. The Wasted Food Dude says it better than I could:
“Food doesn’t expire. It doesn’t die at midnight on the date stamped on its package. Instead, it slowly passes from optimal to inedible. And that date stamped on the package — no matter what words precede it — tends to fall much closer to edible.”
(Before we continue, let me clarify: Sell By means that's when the store should sell it. You have plenty of time to eat the food after the store sells it. Best By means it's not as good after the date, but it's still good. Expires means proceed at your own risk.)
But if we can’t trust ink stamps on packages, who can we trust? How can we know when our food is safe? What can we do in a world filled with such uncertainty!?!
Relax! Our bodies have very efficiently evolved to detect when food isn’t safe to eat.
All we have to do is use our sense of sight, smell, and taste. If there’s something wrong with the food, one of those senses will raise a red flag.
That’s why my reader cut the mold off her tomato. Her body knew instinctively that mold was not something she should eat. She had no trouble eating the rest of the tomato because her senses knew it was safe.
Have you ever noticed that when you eat a certain food and then get sick, you often can’t eat that food again, even if you used to love it? That’s because your body has made an incorrect association and determined that the food is no longer safe. You can’t talk your brain out of being nauseous around that food; your instinct is too strong to battle.
That’s why I rarely pay attention to expiration dates. I don’t need a stamp from a factory to tell me when my food has decomposed; I can figure that out just fine on my own.
For instance, I made strawberry milk the other day, and the syrup tasted old. Come to find out, the syrup expired in 2014. (This happened before I made a commitment to be more responsible with my food.) I knew the syrup was expired before I looked at the stamp. The expiration date served no purpose, and in my mind, they rarely do.
In fact, I only use expiration dates in three instances:
My reasoning with the first two is that I can’t exactly taste raw meat or medicine to know if it’s bad. There are signs with raw meat, like discoloration and foul odor, but in this instance at least, I like to play it safe.
But that doesn’t mean I throw raw meat away. If I have raw meat sitting in my fridge, I will write on my calendar (honest to goodness, I really write it down) when I need to eat it or freeze it. Meat is expensive! Plus, I feel bad ending an animal’s life just to throw its remains in a trash can.
To sum up, my philosophy is the same as Andrew Zimmerman from Bizarre Food:
If it looks good, eat it!