Whoever thought of putting expiration dates on groceries was a genius. It's funny, but I don't remember seeing expiration dates on anything when I was growing up. Nowadays, they're on everything from eggs to batteries. You can’t help but notice them as you shop, and they certainly glare at you each time you open the refrigerator or pantry. When it comes to edible items, I tend to take expiration dates quite seriously. In fact, I’d even consider myself a wee bit paranoid about consuming anything past the expiration date. That was until today.
I have such a taste for tuna salad. Medium sized bowl? Check. One small can of white, albacore tuna packed in water? Check. Real mayonnaise? Check. Whoa, wait ... uncheck! What’s that written down the side of my gently-used squeeze bottle of mayonnaise? Best If Used By: June 24 2012. Aaargh ... today is July 22, 2012! Panic sets in. Conflicted about what I should do next, I decide to Google my dilemma. Lo and behold, I find a website called Still Tasty.com. There’s a section called “Keep It Or Toss It” where you can enter the name of a product, then select from a list of packaging and storage conditions like opened, unopened, refrigerated, or frozen. In return, you get useful storage information and a range of how long your food item will stay safe and delicious. So, with regards to my mayonnaise: As long as it has been refrigerated continuously, I'm good for at least 2 more months. Excellent!
Of course, I wanted to make sure I survived my tuna salad meal before blogging about my experiment. Over the years, I’ve had spirited debates concerning the usefulness and validity of expiration dates. Several people with whom I’ve spoken believe expiration dates are a means to increase sales. Some folks have even reminisced about their grandparents who, back in the day, used to eat stuff way beyond any timeframe within my comfort zone. Although I have been hesitant to prove or disprove the accuracy of any expiration date theories, I now have a reliable resource for everything-I-ever-wanted-to-know-about-the-shelf-life-of-practically-every-food-and-drink-on-the-planet.
However, one nagging question still remains: Why on earth does bottled water have an expiration date? I mean ... it’s water for cryin' out loud!