We are a consumer based society that has been trained to believe the “expiration”, “best used by” or the “you’ll die if you use after this date” are firm dates that mean the product is no longer usable. Marketers have figured out that one great way to get continuous repeat business is to train us to pay a lot of attention to those dates and throw the product out after that date has passed. Am I saying that all expiration dates can just be ignored? Of course not, but I have literally seen expiration dates on paper and plastic goods.
It’s impossible for me to cover all types of products, so I am just going to touch on a few that I think might be popular or important. There are some pretty standard storage rules that will increase the life of just about everything. Keep your items in a cool, dark and dry area.
Wheat, sugar, honey, salt and so on. I have a pretty extensive list of staples., and here is a link showing you how to store them long term. Many of these items will last 25+ years. Some, such as honey, will store indefinitely, when stored correctly.
From Food Reference.com “Canned food has a shelf life of at least two years from the date of processing. Canned food retains its safety and nutritional value well beyond two years, but it may have some variation in quality, such as a change of color and texture. Canning is a high-heat process that renders the food commercially sterile. Food safety is not an issue in products kept on the shelf or in the pantry for long periods of time. In fact, canned food has an almost indefinite shelf life at moderate temperatures (75° F and below). Canned food as old as 100 years has been found in sunken ships and it is still microbiologically safe! We don’t recommend keeping canned food for 100 years, but if the can is intact, not dented or bulging, it is edible.”
For home canned food, the Ball Jar company used to have the following in the FAQ on their site. They have since revamped their site and I can’t find it again. But what they said was:
“How long can home canned food be stored?
Food that has been properly canned, using an up-to-date, tested recipe and that has a vacuum seal will keep indefinitely; however, over an extended period of time changes do occur. These changes may affect the flavor, color, texture and nutritional value of the product. For the highest quality, use home canned food within one year.
How do I know if a jar of home canned food is spoiled?
When up-to-date guidelines, such as those outlined on this site, are followed exactly, there should be little concern about the quality and safety of your home canned foods. As with commercial packaged foods, it is always wise to examine any food before using it. When you take it from the shelf, check each jar to see that it has retained a vacuum seal and that no visible changes have taken place during storage”
Pop, soda, coke, whatever you call it, where ever you live
This one is a bit tricky. I can’t find any firm numbers, but the research that I have done shows that regular, NON diet, pop will last for a long time, some places say years. As long as the can remains sealed, it will remain carbonated. The corn syrup lasts much longer than artificial sweeteners.
Diet pop goes bad not long after the expiration date. This has to do with the artificial sweeteners.
Chocolate by itself, according to Hershey’s Product FAQ
Q. How should I store chocolate?
A. Solid chocolate products will maintain their quality if well wrapped and stored in a cool, dry place (55-60°F). While refrigerated chocolate is certainly safe to use, we don’t recommend it. Chocolate kept in the refrigerator may “sweat” when brought to room temperature and may not melt properly. Cocoa is considered a non-perishable item which should maintain quality if stored at room temperature in a tightly sealed container.
Chocolate may turn white. This is called “blooming”. The chocolate is still perfectly edible. Here is what Hershey’s has to say in the Hershey’s Product FAQ
Q. My chocolate sometimes turns tan or white. What causes this?
A. Chocolate contains cocoa butter, a vegetable fat that is sensitive to heat and humidity. Temperatures above 75°F will cause chocolate to melt. The cocoa butter can rise to the surface and form a discoloration called “cocoa butter bloom.” Condensation on milk or semi-sweet chocolate may cause the sugar to dissolve and rise to the surface as “sugar bloom.” Chocolate that has “bloomed” is certainly safe to use, but flavor loss and texture changes may be noticed.
The water itself won’t go bad but the chemicals from the plastic can leech into the water over time. If you use water bottles regularly and rotate through your supply, this shouldn’t be a concern. If you are storing water bottles for pure water storage, rotate every 6-12 months.
I am not a Doctor, nor have I ever played one on TV, but I have done plenty of research on the subject of medicine. From the below links I’ll show you how I had come to believe that in large part, big-pharma has sold us a bill of goods.
Drugs Frequently Potent Past Expiration details how in the mid 1980’s the military was faced with spending billions to replace medications that were reaching the end of their expiration date and requested the FDA to test whether medications were still effective after their expirations dates. Read the article for full details, but some of the high points:
The testing, conducted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, ultimately covered more than 100 drugs, prescription and over-the-counter. The results, never before reported, show that about 90% of them were safe and effective far past their original expiration date, at least one for 15 years past it.
In light of these results, a former director of the testing program, Francis Flaherty, says he has concluded that expiration dates put on by manufacturers typically have no bearing on whether a drug is usable for longer. Mr. Flaherty notes that a drug maker is required to prove only that a drug is still good on whatever expiration date the company chooses to set. The expiration date doesn’t mean, or even suggest, that the drug will stop being effective after that, nor that it will become harmful.”
“Joel Davis, a former FDA expiration-date compliance chief, says that with a handful of exceptions – notably nitroglycerin, insulin and some liquid antibiotics – most drugs are probably as durable as those the agency has tested for the military. “Most drugs degrade very slowly,” he says. “In all likelihood, you can take a product you have at home and keep it for many years, especially if it’s in the refrigerator.””
Here are more articles dealing with the expiration dates of medicines from MD’s that are themselves prepper’s.
Antibiotics and Antiviral Medications; by Cynthia J. Koelker, MD
Part One, Part Two, Part Three.
A Doctor’s Thoughts on Antibiotics, Expiration Dates, and TEOTWAWKI, by Dr. Bones
There was only one medicine that I could find that was in fact harmful when used after it had expired. That was Tetracycline and it only effected one person in the 1960’s I believe. It was suggested that it could have been something else that caused the reaction, but it was blamed on Tetracycline.
From the research I have done it looks like medicines that are in pill form only, not liquid or gel, will last much longer than the expiration date suggests. I have and will continue to store and use medicines that were prescribed and not fully used that have exceeded their expiration dates.