Feb. 22, 2010- On NPR's Talk of the Nation, host Neal Conan interviewed food writer and critic Nadia Arumugam on a piece she wrote for Slate.com. In the piece she addressed the issue of food expiration dates and their validity. She tells Conan that "food is an organic substance, and nature will tell us when it's not right to eat" (NPR.org). This may seem like common sense, yet most of us tend to keep a close watch on the sell or use by dates printed on food packages. Arumugam says in the interview that "all the dates that are being put on, you know, your biscuits, your cookies, your preserves, they're all being decided upon by manufacturers, purely by manufacturers" (NPR.org). There is no government regulation on this practice. Some governments, New York City for example, have some laws on experation dates for food, but there is no definitive source of regulation for food manufacturers.
This interview struck a cord for me as my mother is queen of having things in the cupboards with expiration dates varying from yesterday to last year. What's more, she consumes these foods without much hesitation. My husband has always made fun of this as he is an expiration date law abider. I mean, he doesn't even like eating leftovers the next day calling the food "moldy". Arumugam's interview confirmed what my third-world-origins-immigrant mom has known out of either instict or pure necessity: trust your senses in determining whether a food is worthy of consumption. I have to say that I'm in between the two ends of this spectrum. I use the dates as a guide more than law. I do have more concern for certain foods, like dairy, keeping it only a few days past the use by date. However, this interview has me rethinking it all and wanting to research this matter further.
NPR.org - Ignore Your Food's Expiration Dates