How long is food good to eat past the 'use by' date? Here's a breakdown

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- So many of you are scrambling for food. We're all going through our pantries trying to decide what's good and what's bad - it's not just about expiration dates.

Foods can be categorized into three groups. Perishable and non-perishable you probably know, but also semi-perishable foods that are good for six months to a year. Some of those semi-perishable items include: flour, grains, dried fruits and dry mixes. Semi-perishable foods can lose their flavor and aroma, but they are still safe to eat.

Dented cans are OK, but if liquid spurts from the can when opened, discard it, as it could be a sign of spoilage. Rotate your foods on a "first-in, first-out" basis, which includes trying to eat the oldest first.

Here are some recommendations on certain foods that you might have in your pantry:

  • High acid foods like canned juices, fruit, and things like tomato soup are safe to eat well past the "use by" or "best by" date of 12 to 18 months.
  • Meat soups, beans, carrots, corns and peas are good for two to five years after their "best buy" date unopened.
  • Salsa, spaghetti and pizza sauce in jars are good for 18 months if unopened.
  • Pickles are good for a year unopened.
  • Condiments like ketchup, barbecue sauce and mustard are good for a year unopened.
  • Jams and jellies are good for six to 18 months unopened.

Here are some perishables and how long they last:

  • Bread is good 14 to 18 days.
  • Apples are good for three weeks.
  • Citrus fruit like oranges and grapefruit are good for 10 days.
  • Peanut butter is good six months to two years if left unopened, and two to three months if opened.
  • Cereals are good for six to 12 months if unopened, but are good for two to three months if opened.
  • Tortillas are good for three months.

On average, foodborne illnesses are not generally caused by eating old food. They are most often from cross-contamination of foods that have been kept at the wrong temperature. The number one saying among food safety experts is "when in doubt, throw it out."

For more information, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln has a website set up to help give you an idea of your food's lifetime.
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