Death From Outdated Meat
Published: January 16, 2001
Is it true that if you eat an outdated package of meat, you will die?
Signed: Death From Outdated Meat
Dear Death From Outdated Meat,
TeenHealthFX is glad to hear that you are concerned about your well-being. There has been a lot of recent media attention focusing on illnesses that have come from food.
Product dating is not required by federal regulations. However, many stores and processors may voluntarily date packages of meat. If a date is shown on the package look carefully to se whether it says "Sell-By" or "Use By." Packages with a "Sell By" date should be used within 3 to 5 days of the purchase date. If the manufacturer has determined a "Use By" date, it would be wise to observe it. It is always best to buy a product before its date expires. It is not important if a date expires after freezing because all foods stay safe for a long time if properly frozen.
Since you are concerned about the food you eat it is important to remember a few things:
Cooking food so that it reaches a safe internal temperature is crucial in keeping food safe. Using a food thermometer is the only way to tell if food has reached a high enough temperature to destroy harmful bacteria.
Keeping foods separate and your food preparation area clean will keep germs from spreading. Be especially careful with raw chicken and meats. Be sure to wash all cutting surfaces carefully with hot, soapy water. It is a good idea to use a different cutting board for meats and vegetables.
Do not leave food out for long periods of time. Bacteria will grow most rapidly in the range of temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Food that has been in these conditions for more then 2 hours should be thrown out.