More than 60 billion kilograms of food is thrown out in the US every year, meaning as much as 40% of America’s food is wasted.
Even worse, much of this food was still fine to eat, even if it had passed its “expiration date”.
What many of us don’t realise is that these dates are often just recommendations. They’re stamped by manufacturers to let consumers know when the food is at its peak; not necessarily that it becomes unsafe to eat past this point.
While we can easily tell by taste or smell when some foods such as milk are off, others can be a little trickier.
Fruits that are brown or bruised? Still OK! The fruit becomes squishy because enzymes break down tough cell walls and starchy substances in fruit and convert them into sugars. This is why fruit generally gets sweeter as it gets older.
But if you spot mould on fruit or bread? Get rid of it – all of it. Mould can produce thread-like roots which burrow deep down into food. Some also produce chemicals known as mycotoxins which can harm humans if eaten.
Hard cheese, though, is a different story. For more tips on how to tell if your food is still edible, check out the American Chemical Society’s video above.
Jana Howden completed a double degree in Arts and Science at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia.
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