Shocking graphic reveals how long your food will actually last, proving most expiration dates are wrong

Twisted: Unserious food tastes seriously good.

There aren’t many things that can prompt as intense an internal argument than whether or not to eat a slightly dodgy looking piece of something delicious. Walking the thin line between satisfying mouthful and self-induced trip to the emergency room is a dangerous game that many of us are far too chicken to play.

opening a fridge Credit: Pexels/DariaShevstova

In theory, we all have access to a ready made solution to the gamble. Expiration dates, which were first popularised in the early 1970’s, have been an ever present part of eating for many of us, and provide a false sense of security when eating something that we might not immediately trust. It’s much easier to follow someone else’s instructions than try to work out the truth for yourself. What a shame that the whole thing’s a charade.

As it turns out, the entire expiration date phenomenon is bogus. In almost every case, the numbers and dates described in increasingly strict and sincere language are arbitrary. As Time Magazine wrote way back in 2013, “The dates solely indicate freshness, and are used by manufacturers to convey when the product is at its peak. That means the food does not expire in the sense of becoming inedible. For unrefrigerated foods, there may be no difference in taste or quality, and expired foods won’t necessarily make people sick.” This is in stark contrast to the way in which many of us regard the holy bible of sell-bys.

real sell by dates Credit: Twitter/Chefdividino

Of course, ignoring expiration dates entirely in many respects just puts us back to square one. Even if we dismiss the whole theory, we’re still no closer to understanding exactly when we can still eat certain foods and when we have to show others the underside of the bin lid. Fortunately, there is a way to make things much more straightforward.

Originally created by the website HellaWella, this handy graphic is an easy way to get your head around exactly when some of our most popular food items become truly “unsafe” to eat, versus what is advised from manufacturers. Highlighting how different types of storage, different ingredients and different temperatures can all influence how long your food might last, this might be the answer you’ve been looking for to your “food-gone-bad” fears.

Perhaps what’s most striking about the ingredients displayed on the HellaWella graphic is the difference in dairy products. Substances such as yoghurt, cheese and butter, which in some cases may have “best-before” dates of only a few days or weeks, can actually last for a significantly longer period of time. It just goes to show that you can’t trust everything you read.

Breaking the habit of a lifetime and ignoring what looks like expert advice can be tricky to get your head around. However, if you’re willing to trust your instincts rather than meaningless advice, you’ll probably find yourself spending significantly less time food shopping and more time munching. In this case, at least, using common sense is definitely the way to go.