THE DEFINITION OF A SHELF LIFE IS KNOWN TO EVERY PERSON , but they treat it differently: some as the most important limitation, others as a formality. We are figuring out whether it is possible to take expired medicines, for how many years you can trust grandmother’s canned food, and when it is better to throw out cosmetics.
The term depends on the storage conditions
For any food or medicine that needs to be kept in the refrigerator or freezer, the stated expiration date implies clear storage rules. In an amicable way, the temperature of chilled medicines and food must be constantly maintained – but in fact, it is possible that the frozen fish had time to thaw out when the electricity in the building went out for several hours and the backup generator did not work. So, even if the expiration date is formally met, do not forget about common sense: pay attention to whether the package is intact and whether there is an unpleasant smell.
Food, depending on the expiration date, is divided into several types. Products that can be stored only at temperatures no higher than +6 degrees are considered especially perishable. The shelf life of such food is usually from 6 to 72 hours from the date of manufacture; this type includes natural dairy products, chilled meats and fish, seasoned salads, cakes and pastries. The storage temperature of perishable food should not exceed 6 degrees, but the period is longer: from 3 to 30 days. These are cheeses without vacuum packaging, baked milk, thermally processed cottage cheese, milk mixtures in sealed packaging, boiled sausages. Non-perishable goods are those that are safely stored for more than a month at room temperature. For them, humidity and exposure to direct sunlight are important. This type includes pasta, cereals and their mixtures, industrial canned food, some vegetables, caramel and confectionery such as dryers or biscuits.
Why canned food are dangerous
Homemade pickles or jams sometimes sit on shelves for years – and in many cases, sadly, it’s best to throw them away. In no case should you eat the contents if it is moldy, fermented, or if the lid of the jar is swollen. This is due to the use of non-sterile dishes, and microbes that have multiplied in such blanks are dangerous to health. The rolled up is best stored in a cool dry place and not in direct sunlight.
There are no GOSTs for home canned food, but ideally, their storage time should not exceed two years. After that, the jars may begin to lose their tightness, the fermentation process may begin. Compotes and preserves made from pitted fruits, primarily apricots and peaches, should not be stored for more than a year due to the accumulation of hydrocyanic acid . Mushrooms deserve special mention: because of the risk of botulism, salted mushrooms can only be stored under a plastic lid, in the refrigerator and no more than a year. Before salting, the mushrooms must be boiled – so if you were presented with a rolled-up jar of dubious origin, it is better not to risk it.
What stocks can be made of
There are products that can be stored for a very long time without losing their taste and without becoming harmful. White rice remains in excellent condition for up to thirty years, if there are no changes in temperature or an increase in humidity; salt and sugar have virtually no shelf life under dry conditions. For a very long time, nothing happens with dried beans, beans, peas, as well as with strong alcohol like whiskey or cognac.
Foods such as chocolate, dates, and biscuits can also sit for a very long time – although their taste is likely to deteriorate over time. If you do not see a clear foreign plaque on the cookie before last year, and there are no bugs in the package, then you can eat it without harm to your health. Industrial cans can also be stored for many years ” in case of a zombie apocalypse “: in a vacuum and complete tightness, their contents are stable. But if the can is swollen or damaged, it must be thrown away.
How the expiration date of drugs is determined
Back in 1979, drug manufacturers were obliged to indicate expiration dates on packages. Within the specified period, the effectiveness and safety of the drug are guaranteed. The timing is determined in special stability studies, which are carried out in two modes: one batch of the drug is stored in the correct conditions, and the other in the sun, in a hot room or in high humidity. In some countries (for example, in the EU countries), the expiration date that can be indicated on the packaging is limited – and then the date will be indicated five years after release, even if the medicine does not deteriorate in twenty years (for example, activated carbon can be stored forever).
An article published by Harvard Medical School in 2003 describes a study commissioned by the US FDA for the military. For many years, the army changed its stocks of expensive drugs due to expired expiration dates. The study looked at over a hundred prescription and over-the-counter drugs and found that 90% of them were suitable even fifteen years after the expiration date. The effectiveness of the drugs did not change or decreased slightly, and the safety remained the same – the only exceptions were tetracycline, insulin, nitroglycerin and antibiotics in liquid form.
Can I drink an expired pill?
The term “expiration date” itself remains, from the point of view of scientists, controversial. In a 2012 publication, the authors noted that there are multiple expiration dates. For example, the true expiration date is a philosophical concept, because no one will ever know it (for this you need to store each tablet for an unlimited amount of time, periodically checking whether it has retained its qualities). Estimated shelf life – that determined in stability studies; the expiration date supported by the data is calculated using statistical algorithms. Finally, the expiration date on the label is the period that is shorter than all the expiration dates listed above. In fact, the manufacturer is obliged to ensure that the medicine retains its qualities until the specified date, which means that it gives a certain margin of time.
Much also depends on the packaging: tablets in a blister retain their qualities longer than in a bottle, which is periodically opened and where they collide with each other, gradually crushing. If the tablet has not changed color and structure, has not crumbled, and the package is intact, then in an emergency you can take it even after several months have passed after the specified expiration date. It should be borne in mind that if you put medicines in pill boxes or mini-containers so as not to forget to take them on time, then you can store the pills in them for no more than ten days.
Liquid preparations have a clear shelf life and use after opening the package – bacteria easily grow in them. In addition, syrups often contain sugar and can therefore be a particularly favorable environment for microbes to multiply. Do not use any injection products after the stated expiration date. You should also pay close attention to eye drops – they definitely cannot be used for more than a month after opening. If you accidentally touch the eyelashes or eyelids, bacteria enter the drug and multiply rapidly; the term of use provides that within a month the preservative will protect the drops, but after that they can become dangerous and cause, for example, conjunctivitis.
When to throw away powder and mascara
Cosmetics manufacturers also conduct stability studies and place products under various conditions: they heat, cool, freeze, shake, spin in a centrifuge, force bacteria and fungi in to calculate whether the cream can withstand the touch of dirty fingers. As a result, two periods are determined: storage and use after opening, which are usually indicated on the package. The expiration date of some cosmetics can be checked using a special calculator , for this you need to enter the brand name and serial number.
Moreover, if you did not have time to open the package, and the expiration date has already expired, then the product will most likely lose its effectiveness, but will not harm. But if the package was opened, you used the cream several times and remembered about it after a year, then it is better to send it to the trash bin: the result of using such cosmetics can be unpredictable, up to allergic reactions and dermatitis. This also applies to decorative cosmetics, and mascara, which you use every few months, can become a source of unnecessary microorganisms.
Let’s remind about simple hygiene rules : cosmetics should be applied with clean hands or regularly washed brushes or spatulas. It is better to give preference to packages with dispensers or pipettes, always close the lids tightly, do not store cosmetics in direct sunlight and put in the refrigerator what is not used for a long time.