Eating 'Expired' Food Isn't as Disgusting as It Sounds

food in recycle binUpon hearing that Trader Joe's president Doug Rauch thinks we should be eating more "expired" foods, you might be gagging or doing a double-take of shock. Okay, so it sounds horrible on paper. Visions of rotten eggs, droopy, brown lettuce, and sour milk dance in your head. But that's not exactly what Rauch is proposing. Instead, he's setting up a shop in a low-income section of Boston to sell low-cost food and meals made predominately from still-edible ingredients that have passed their "sell-by" dates. And really, shouldn't the key words here be "still-edible" ... not "sell-by date"?

We tend to get the two confused, but they're not necessarily mutually exclusive. And we've actually got a couple of different problems right here at home and on a global scale that could be solved if we could only get a little more comfortable with the idea that we could eat certain foods beyond their inane "sell-by date."


The problems are food waste and food insecurity stemming from a lack of proper nutrition in many low-income neighborhoods. Two biggies we could likely nip in the bud by considering what an expiration date really is.

I swear, sometimes, I feel like it's just a way for some companies to convince us it's time to throw away a perfectly edible food and go buy more ... (Kinda like that gum commercial where the forces are all conspiring to make the guy get rid of the piece he's been chewing forever, since the flavor purportedly lasts so long.) I look at an arbitrary date that states three weeks prior on bread I've kept in the fridge or packets of oatmeal or pasta and feel like maybe I could get sick from eating any of that, but 9.9 times out of 10, it's fine!

Granted, there are some foods that are not fine after their stamped date. In fact, I've encountered foods -- usually prepared organic items that are extra finicky -- that have gone bad even before their expiration. But not all food was made equal. And when you're trying to make the most out of what you've got, you can't afford to throw in the towel before a food has actually gone bad.

That said, what Rauch is doing seems like it'll not only help those in need but teach us all a valuable lesson: To start relying more on our senses and creative cooking skills and less on dates that may or may not mean anything at all.

What do you think about Rauch's idea? What factors influence whether you keep or toss a food?


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