Shelf Life and Use Dates
A lot of people think that the "sell by" date on a perishable food means you cannot eat or drink it after that date. Not so! Manufacturers know you'll take the product home, and estimate the time the average consumer will want to keep it before using it. The "sell by" date means just that; after that date, if you buy it, you may have insufficient time to use it before it goes bad.
Many cases of "stomach flu" are actually a sign of poor food handling. It's important to store carefully and use within standard time intervals considering the kind of food.
Canned foods, for instance, slowly lose some vitamins and antioxidants although they will be safe for a longer time. Acid canned goods may be safe for a year and a half if not dented or damaged, while non-acid foods can last as long as five years. But the taste and nutrients may be affected with long storage. Rotate your canned goods if you stock ahead (those of us in hurricane zones will be familiar with the concept). Badly dented, swollen or punctured cans can actually carry a potentially fatal toxin, botulism.
Eggs stay fresh three to five weeks if unbroken and stored in the refrigerator. They'll last longer if you don't store them in the door.
Meats, seafood, poultry and some dairy products are the most delicate and the most dangerous if kept too long. They can grow dangerous bacteria and even produce toxins. If in doubt, give them to the dog (no bones, please!).
Molds on all products except some cheeses can also be dangerous long-term. Many molds can cause cancer on down the line. While a small amount of mold can be deeply trimmed from produce, mold on other products means it should be discarded.
Want to educate yourself? Here's a valuable site:
Now, for some of my personal thoughts and hints, read "Ten Commandments for Food Handling".