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Experts reveal which food they should ‘sniff’ and ignore ‘tenable until’ dates for WEEKS

Are you trying a quick sniffing test on food in your fridge that is past the ‘Use-By’ date before you decide whether or not to continue and eat it? If so, you are far from alone.

One in four of us would like to eat outdated chicken if it still smelled OK, according to new research. The survey found that 72 percent of us think the ‘Best Before’ and ‘Use-By’ labels are too cautious, with 63 percent of the 2,000 people interviewed saying they should be scrapped altogether.

Despite these findings, food wastage remains an ever-increasing problem, with the average household throwing out £ 700 perfectly good food every year, according to figures released last month by the government’s waste adviser WRAP (action program for waste and resources).

Are you trying a quick sniffing test on food in your fridge that is past the 'Use-By' date before you decide whether or not to continue and eat it? If so, you are far from alone

Are you trying a quick sniffing test on food in your fridge that is past the ‘Use-By’ date before you decide to continue or eat it? If so, you are far from alone

So, with 4.4 million potatoes and a million loaves of bread stored in the UK every day, should we ignore the label dates and rely on our own senses to prevent food waste and save money?

According to official guidelines, food may no longer be eaten after the expiry date, but experts say that since these dates have a built-in safety margin, this is too rigid.

“Supermarkets are terrified that they are being charged with selling food that can be seen as a health risk,” says independent microbiologist and food safety adviser Dr. Slim Dinsdale, “so manufacturers leave a big margin in their” Use-By “dates.

“Most of the foods that we buy are edible well after the date on the label. And even if it is moldy, you are unlikely to get sick. Even chicken or sausage should be fine if you cook well, because heat kills 99.9 percent of the potentially harmful bacteria. “

There are approximately one million cases of food poisoning a year in the UK, with the most common causes being Campylobacter bacteria, Salmonella and E.coli – but almost all of them are caused by eating insufficiently cooked meat or unpasteurized dairy products.

According to official guidelines, food may no longer be eaten after the expiry date, but experts say that because these dates have a built-in safety margin, this is too rigid

According to official guidelines, food may no longer be eaten after the expiry date, but experts say that because these dates have a built-in safety margin, this is too rigid

According to official guidelines, food may no longer be eaten after the expiry date, but experts say that because these dates have a built-in safety margin, this is too rigid

Listeria is the other common form, often caused by pre-packaged sandwiches and ‘ready-made’ chilled food.

In general Dr.. Dinsdale for relying on your nose, taste buds and common sense when it comes to keeping good food away. The sniffing test alone may not be entirely reliable, he adds, because the smell of “bad” food is usually caused by the harmless “spoilage” of Pseudomonas bacteria that don’t make you sick.

In fact, those responsible for serious food poisoning – such as Salmonella, E.coli 0157 and Listeria – have “no real smell”, he notes.

More importantly, food is thoroughly cooked until it is piping hot to kill these microscopic bacteria.

Not sure when you must adhere to the ‘To use until’ date or whether you should use the ‘sniff test’? Here microbiologists give Dr. Dinsdale from Food Safety Experts and Brian Smith from Booth Smith Food Technology their no-nonsense guide.


Refrigerated food must always be stored in the refrigerator at 8c or lower.


Use by date: Can go a day or two, but be careful.

Sniffing test: Helpful.

Brian Smith says: “Use common sense if chicken only exceeds a day or two compared to the” To use until “date.

‘If it looks and smells good, you know it has been kept well chilled – and more importantly, you cook it thoroughly (75c to 80c in the middle of the meat, tested with a meat thermometer), you have to kill all the harmful bacteria present. But I would not recommend going beyond the “To Use Until” date as a habit. “

Dr. Dinsdale is more relaxed: “Raw chicken can often be stored for up to a week after the expiry date.” But he warns: ‘Never wash raw chicken. Studies have shown that this can splash dangerous bacteria on other nearby work surfaces, where they can contaminate hands and other food. “


Use by date: Safely ignore it for a week thereafter.

Sniffing test: Helpful.

“Milk is often good to drink up to a week after the expiration date when it is opened, and even longer if it is unopened,” says Dr. Dinsdale. ‘It is fairly clear from smell or taste if it is acidic.

‘Milk that is’ off’ does not pose a health threat, because thanks to modern pasteurization processes it does not contain any dangerous bacteria – it simply tastes horrible.

“But” raw or unpasteurized milk available from farm stores or health food stores has not been heat treated to kill bacteria, and although it is likely to be safe for healthy adults, it should be avoided in every state by pregnant women and older, vulnerable or very young people who are more at risk of becoming seriously ill from bacteria. “


Best before: Safe to ignore more than a week afterwards.

Sniffing test: Handy (when cracked).

Dr. Dinsdale says: ‘If they have a stamp of a red lion, eggs come from British chickens that have been vaccinated against Salmonella – a practice that makes British eggs the safest in the world to eat. After the expiration date, they remain in the fridge for more than a week, but then the quality (although not the safety) may deteriorate. They are safe to eat with a runny nose.

‘When an egg’s best is over, you smell a nasty sulfur smell when you crack it, so throw it away because it doesn’t taste good.

‘Be more careful with imported eggs. Some countries have had problems with eggs contaminated with Salmonella in recent years, so use them within the specified date and cook until the yolk is firm. “


Use by date: Can be relaxed for a few days if it smells good – and as long as it’s not sushi.

Sniffing test: Helpful.

Dr. Dinsdale says: All fish and seafood smell and look unpleasant before it becomes actively unsafe.

The smell of rotten fish is unmistakable. If you are unsure, it will probably go off and you can best throw it away.

Adhere to the recommended shelf life dates for fish to eat raw, such as sushi, because potential bacteria are not killed by cooking.

“Salted, smoked fish is different: the salting and smoking processes are natural preservatives, so they remain safe for at least a week after the expiration date, if properly cooled.”


Use by date: Can ignore up to a week.

Sniffing test: Helpful.

Dr. Dinsdale says: ‘The general rule with fresh cuts of beef or lamb is that if it looks and smells good, it is safe to eat when it is cooked. It can often take up to a week after the “Use-By” date.

“Red meat that has turned brown is still safe – this is just a normal oxidation process that causes the red blood to turn brown when exposed to the air.

“But if it smells bad, it doesn’t taste good, so throw it away.

“Whole steak is fine for eating rare, because bacteria are present on the outside (not on the inside) and scorching (cooking on both sides in a hot pan) destroys them.”


Use by date: Stay with it.

Sniffing test: Helpful.

“A sensible judgment based on odor is strongly recommended,” says Brian Smith.

“The chopping and blending process can lead to more opportunities for cross-contamination of bacteria, so be careful when cooking to ensure that no cold spots are left in the middle of the meat during grilling or roasting that can harbor bacteria.”


Best before: Can be ignored.

Sniffing test: Non relevant.

Dr. Dinsdale says: ‘Making hard cheese is an old and very safe way to store milk so that it can last for months. If it develops a little blue / green mold, just scrape it off – it won’t hurt you. “


Use by date: Be careful. A week later for supermarket cheeses, but not the markets.

Sniffing test: Not usable.

Dr. Dinsdale says: ‘Most soft cheeses that you buy in the supermarket have a long shelf life and have a matching expiry date.

Eating after a week or longer is usually fine. This is because the milk used to make them has been pasteurized and has undergone a heating process to kill all nasty bacteria.

“Some traditional soft French cheeses that you find on market stalls or in cheese makers, however, can be made using old-fashioned methods that do not include pasteurization.

‘Listeria is the most common bacterium in these soft cheeses and can cause serious diseases in people with a weakened immune system or pregnant women. So eat traditional French soft cheeses within the best-before date.


Best before: Can be ignored – even for months.

Sniffing test: Limited use.

Dr. Dinsdale says: “There is absolutely no safety problem with outdated butter and it can take weeks, even months, if it is packaged well and stored in the refrigerator.

‘Every dark edge is a sign that it is rancid and tastes slightly bitter, but you can still eat it if you don’t mind the taste. Some chefs, especially in Middle Eastern cultures, even enjoy cooking with it right now because it adds more flavor! “


Use by date: Can be ignored – even for weeks.

Sniffing test: Not usable.

Dr. Dinsdale says: ‘Yogurt can stand in the fridge for weeks. The process of turning milk into yogurt involves the addition of certain types of safe, natural bacteria and is one of the oldest and safest forms of preservation.

“I’d even say it was safe to scrape the odd bit of mold off the top, as long as it doesn’t occur in the yogurt.

‘Sometimes yeast can also grow on top of yogurt, causing bubbles to come on top and give it a bit of a’ fizzy ‘taste, but it’s not a safety issue.


Use by date: Stay with it.

Sniffing test: Not usable.

Dr. Dinsdale says: ‘I would be more careful with dips such as hummus because the production methods can vary.

‘They are generally a safe product, but there have been occasions when bacteria have been found in an ingredient that contaminates the batch, which can also happen with sandwiches and salads.

‘I would eat within a few days of the best-before date. If bubbles form on top, they are probably yeast and lactic acid bacteria – naturally present in the ingredients – and is harmless.

“Cross-contamination can occur when several people dive into the same pot, but it does not pose a greater risk than normal contact with other people.”


Use by date: Can be ignored for weeks if it looks good.

Sniffing test: Helpful.

Dr. Dinsdale says, “The only time fruits or vegetables harbor the types of bacteria that can make you sick is if they have contaminated soil that is not thoroughly washed before eating raw.

‘The soil can contain bacteria that cause food poisoning, such as E. coli, but the danger only applies to raw products because cooking kills them.

“Some studies have shown that norovirus bacteria (winter vomiting) may remain at some point during the treatment process, so always wash thoroughly before eating.

‘When fruit and vegetables go off, they become moist, brown and not edible by harmless’ rotting’ bacteria – but they do not pose a safety risk.

‘Cut out the green pieces with potatoes – which contain solanine, a natural chemical that is toxic if you eat too much. Eyes and wrinkled pieces are safe to eat. “


Best before: Can be ignored for up to a week for bread, a month or more for cakes and cookies.

Sniffing test: Little use.

Dr. Dinsdale says: “Bread can be stored for up to a week after the” Best before date “when stored in a sealed bread bin.

‘By storing it in the refrigerator, it can age faster because the cold temperature accelerates the recrystallization of the starch it contains, causing it to dry out.

‘Any green fungus can simply be cut away and is not harmful. Cakes, except those with fresh cream, and cookies last a few months after the “Best before date” if they are unopened – and can often stay fresh for at least a month even after opening in an airtight container.

“The scent test is not applicable here, because these foods do not smell” bad “when they are at their best.”


Use by date: Jury is out.

Sniffing test: Helpful.

Dr. Dinsdale says: ‘Most pre-packaged sandwiches are made in carefully controlled conditions. Although the label generally says they can be kept for 18 hours, tests have shown that they can then be perfectly healthy for at least three more days if properly cooled. If they stink, don’t eat them. “

Brian Smith is more cautious: “Ready-made rolls should always be kept cool and consumed before the end of the” Use-By “date. Ignore this at your own risk. “


These gadgets claim to tell you whether food is ‘off’ or not suitable for a limited diet. But do they measure up? We asked the experts …


£ 99, myfoodsniffer.com

Claim: “The first portable device in the world that determines the freshness of raw meat, poultry and fish.”

FoodSniffer. £ 99, myfoodsniffer.com

FoodSniffer. £ 99, myfoodsniffer.com

FoodSniffer. £ 99, myfoodsniffer.com

A sensor in the device records the release of gases, such as ammonia, that are released when meat is not fresh, for example.

EXPERTISE: Kimon Andreas Karatzas, professor of food microbiology at the University of Reading, says: ‘The release of gases is a way to determine whether meat is fresh but not whether it is safe – the two are not always related to each other. Only a small number of food-borne pathogens cause poisoning; the most common are Salmonella or Listeria. But these do not produce enough volatile gases to be detected by a device like this. “

Spoon Guru

Free, App Store and Google Play

Claim: Simply download the app and then fill in the details of the ingredients you want to avoid. The app searches data from thousands of products to provide a detailed analysis of the content, developers say. It also has a barcode scanner, so you can swipe over products for more information.

EXPERTISE: Rachel Clarkson, nutrition specialist at the DNA Dietitian Clinic in London, says: “A major obstacle to healthier eating is the labeling of food, since decoding labels is not always easy. I think it would mainly help people who want to make a specific choice, such as those who are gluten intolerant, or vegetarian or on a low-salt diet. It would make healthy eating much easier. “

Eat Marble Aire

£ 149, foodmarble.com

Eat Marble Aire. £ 149, foodmarble.com

Eat Marble Aire. £ 149, foodmarble.com

Eat Marble Aire. £ 149, foodmarble.com

Claim: A mini-version of the breath test machines used in hospitals to detect potential digestive problems or food intolerance Indicated by hydrogen levels in your breath – hydrogen is produced when certain undigested carbohydrates, including lactose from dairy products, are broken down in the colon and high levels are considered a sign of digestive problems.

EXPERTISE: Dr. Mark Cox, gastroenterologist at Spire Little Aston Hospital in Sutton Coldfield, says: “I can see that this can be useful as a way to test lactose intolerance, for example, because it should work like the hospital version as the user followed the instructions correctly. But there are countless digestive problems that cause certain foods to be ‘forbidden’ for some, not just because of the release of hydrogen. If someone has constant stomach problems, he should see his doctor. “