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11:09 PM December 13th, 2011

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By: Linda Bolido, December 13th, 2011 11:09 PM

With Christmas just a little over a week away, many households have started to stock up on the things they would need for the Noche Buena and the New Year Media Noche.

Of course, many people often buy more than they actually need and get stuck at the end of the holiday season with so much stuff that they do not know what to do with. The things often remain unused, and when people check the labels they find that the “best before” or expiration date has passed.

So should the stuff be immediately discarded? Not just yet, according to Buzzle.com.

According to the web site, “Expiration dates on food products can protect consumer health, but those dates are really more about quality than safety, and if not properly understood, they can also encourage consumers to discard food that is perfectly safe to eat.”

A guest on an American television show suggests people should use their senses, and not just rely on the best before or expiration date, to tell if something is still safe to eat. The nose, the eyes and the tongue can help tell if something is still edible or should be thrown away. Food that has spoiled will smell and taste bad and will show some changes in its appearance.

With food getting more expensive—some items are even scarcer (in some parts of the world hundreds die every day for not having enough to eat)—people should not discard it just because the label says the expiration date has passed.

This is probably why more and more manufacturers prefer to use “best before” rather than expiration date. The best before date suggests the product may still be fit for consumption although it may not be in its optimum state.

Using the senses to check if something is safe to eat before throwing it away can mean considerable savings.

Visit http://green.yahoo.com/blog/ care2/54/food-expiration-dates-what-do-they-really-mean.html.

Storing eggs

Still on the subject of food, a few weeks ago, I wrote about suggestions on how to store eggs properly. Buzzle.com says the shelf life of eggs “vary with the form and the temperature at which it is stored.”

It says cooked eggs actually have a shorter shelf life compared to raw.

Buzzle.com adds that hard-boiled eggs in the shell will last for only six to seven days in the refrigerator. It warns that cooking eggs lightly will not get rid of bacteria like salmonella, which can cause very serious health problems. The bacteria will make the eggs more vulnerable to spoilage. The web site says, to be safe rather than sorry, eggs should be cooked thoroughly.

Egg preparations, like deviled, scrambled or poached eggs, and omelette should not be kept at room temperature for more than five to six hours. In tropical countries like the Philippines, these egg preparations should not be kept at room temperature beyond an hour, says Buzzle.com.

Raw eggs should be stored for no more than three weeks. The web site suggests a way to find out how fresh eggs are: “One way to test the freshness of eggs is by carrying out the water float test. Place all the eggs in a vessel filled with cold water. The eggs that sink to the bottom of the vessel are fresh eggs, the ones that tilt slightly are the slightly older eggs and the ones that float are the rotten eggs.”

Uncooked eggs, it stresses, should not be kept at room temperature for more than two hours to prevent the growth of bacteria.

Send letters to The Consumer, Lifestyle Section, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 1098 Chino Roces Ave. cor. Mascardo and Yague Sts., 1204 Makati City; fax 8974793/94; or e-mail lbolido@inquirer.com.ph.

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