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Palm Coast Saturday, Apr. 25, 2015 4 years ago

Expired food? I'll be the judge of that

by: Brian McMillan Executive Editor

Hurricane season is coming up again already: It begins June 1. And so, it’s time for everyone to get your emergency food supplies together.

My family has always had a 72-hour emergency kit in a plastic tote, thanks to the efforts of my wife, Hailey. We were stocked with three days’ worth of oats-and-honey granola bars, Nutri-Grain Bars, Ramen noodles, fruit snacks, little cups of diced peaches, trail mix and Capri Sun pouches. So, basically, we were going to eat like kings.

The problem is, you have to rotate the food every six months or so to make sure it doesn’t get stale. We hadn’t done that in years, so when we opened up the tote a few weeks ago, we discovered that everything was expired. For a long while, I stared at the mounds of food, all neatly sealed in Ziploc baggies.

“What, are we just supposed to throw it all away?” I asked Hailey.

“Well, we need to buy more,” she said. “But you can try it if you want.”

And try it, I did. I started with the fruit snacks, Walmart Fruit Smiles. I prefer stale fruit snacks anyway — I like to feel like I’m biting into something tough and substantial. And the expired kind did the trick. A few of the packs were a bit slimy, but not in an unhealthy way, just syrupy. Delicious!

Next were the Nutri-Grain Bars. A bit crumbly, and the jelly was a bit darker than you’d like to see, but not bad. Just don’t try to eat them while driving.

The peaches? Divine. Might as well not even have an expiration date on those.

I let the kids drink the Capri Suns, and they filed no complaints.

Trail mix is no good when it’s old. But erstwhile crunchy oats-and-honey granola bars are pleasantly chewy when expired.

Ramen stands the test of time

You can call this food expired if you want, but I like to call it free. Because all this stuff is theoretically garbage, right? We were planning to throw it away and replace it. In fact, Hailey already bought replacement food, and the 72-hour kit has already been sealed back up and set on a shelf in the garage.

So, instead of paying for lunch food, I will choose a free package of Ramen noodles, please. Expiration date of 112112? I’ll be the judge of that.

And as it turns out, Ramen noodles are good eating, even after a few years. And they come with a sense of humor about their notorious nutrition facts. On the packet, under the warning that you’re about to 70% of your daily allotment of sodium, there is a helpful tip that says, “You may reduce the sodium level by simply using less of the seasoning packet.” Heh heh. The folks at Ramen are creative, you have to admit. I could imagine a similar suggestion on a Snickers: “You may reduce the amount of fat by simply throwing half of this candy bar in the trash.”

Don’t trust me? Trust the government

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture created an app called USDA FoodKeeper to get more people to follow my example of eating expired food.

From “Every year, billions of pounds of good food go to waste in the U.S. because home cooks are not sure of the quality or safety of items. USDA estimates that 21% of the available food in the U.S. goes uneaten at the consumer level. In total, 36 pounds of food per person is wasted each month at the retail and consumer levels!”

If it’s on a .gov site, and if it has an exclamation point at the end, you know it must be true.

A article about the new app quotes a USDA official saying this: “Many products may have a sell-by date of say April 1 but they could be good in your pantry for another 12 or 18 months. And by throwing those out, what you're doing, is you're contributing to food waste in the United States.”

So please, Observer readers, don’t throw away your Ramen noodles. Go right ahead and eat them. However, take it from a person with experience: You don’t want to eat the expired beef jerky.


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