By Molly F. Wetterschneider
LETICIA RIFLES THROUGH HER kitchen pantry and finds a can of tomato soup—her favorite! She could really go for some tomato
soup right now. She had a long and busy
afternoon at school and then at her part-time job at the mall, and now
she is famished. She
glances at the bottom of the can,
“Best by” date.
date is for
Is the soup
about the can’s
When good food goes bad
They are stamped on the packaging of many
kinds of foods, including soup cans, milk jugs,
juice bottles, meat trays, and even egg shells.
They are tiny messages that say “Best by,”
“Sell by,” or “Use by” followed by a date. But
what do those dates mean? Some people call
them expiration dates, but does the food
actually expire, or go bad, on that exact
date? What happens if you eat the food
anyway? Will it make you sick?
Foods do not stay fresh forever,
even when sealed in airtight packaging or stored in a refrigerator.
At some point, all foods will spoil.
Over time, the molecules that give
foods their appetizing flavors, smells,
Not all foods spoil at the same rate. Some,
like raw meat, can go bad in a matter of hours
if not stored properly. Others, like dried pasta,
can last years in the pantry with very little
change in the flavor once it is cooked. Scien-
tists have even found honey buried in ancient
pots in Egyptian tombs for thousands of years
that still tastes as sweet as it did when it was
first put away.
It is not always clear when a food product
has gone bad. You can tell just by looking that
it is long past time to toss out a loaf of bread
because it has green, fuzzy
mold growing on it. But
what about a can of
tomato soup? You can-
not see inside unless you
open the can. And once you open it and pour
it into a bowl, old soup may not look or smell
that much different from soup that has been
recently sealed in the can. How can you know
when a food is past its prime? T H I N K S