Is That Food in Your Fridge Still Good?

That's been in the fridge maybe a little too long. (Photo: Ashley Davidson [CC BY 2.0]/Flickr)

In the U.S., we throw away well over 25 percent of the food that is produced. A lot of this waste happens outside of our homes, but much of it does happen right in our own kitchens.

When produce goes bad in the crisper or you find a fuzzy container of something in the back of the refrigerator, it’s obvious that it can’t be eaten. It gets tossed or, better yet, composted. Sometimes, though, we toss food because we’re not sure if it’s good or not. A lot of perfectly good food gets wasted just because we’re unsure.

The website Still Tasty aims to help us know how long our food and beverages stay safe and tasty. I first learned about Still Tasty on the Wasted Food blog.

The site has a “Keep it or Toss it” section that guides you in determining if food is okay to keep, even if it’s past an expiration or best buy date.

Let’s take the bottle of prepared horseradish that’s been sitting in my refrigerator since last fall -- the one that has a sell by date of Jan 3009. Obviously, someone made a typo on the label. Under that date it says use within two weeks of date. Well, that’s confusing. Is it two weeks if it’s been open? Two weeks after opening?

According to Still Tasty, I can keep an open bottle of commercial, prepared horseradish for 3-4 months in the refrigerator. But, there is also a note that says

Storage time is for best quality only – after that, the horseradish’s texture, color and flavor may change, but in most cases, it will be safe to consume if it has been kept continuously refrigerated.
If horseradish develops an off odor, flavor or appearance, it should be discarded for quality purposes; if mold appears, discard the entire product.

Good to know. The horseradish looks and smells exactly like it did the day I opened it.

Another section on Still Tasty answers common questions like “Do you have to refrigerate open bottles of ketchup and mustard?” and “Is it safe to refreeze meat that has already thawed?

I’m going to find this a very useful website. Obviously, common sense needs to be used when following the advice on Still Tasty or any other website These are guidelines, not hard and fast rules about the safety of the food in your fridge or pantry. In fact, the website has a very detailed disclaimer for those who use the advice on their site.

Would you turn to a site like this if you were unsure about whether to keep or toss food, or would you toss it, just to be sure?