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15 Foods That Should Never Be Eaten Beyond Their Expiration Date

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While expiration dates serve as a guideline for freshness and food safety, certain foods can pose health risks if consumed after they have expired. By identifying these foods and adhering to recommended storage practices, individuals can minimize the risk of food poisoning and ensure that their meals are safe and wholesome.

1. Raw Shellfish

Raw Shellfish
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Oysters that are plump and juicy come to mind. Delicious, right? But those same oysters can become a breeding ground for nasty bacteria after their expiration date. This bacteria can cause serious foodborne illness, so listen to the label and enjoy them fresh.

2. Sprouted or Cooked Beans and Shoots

Black bean, quinoa, sweet potato, bell pepper
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Bean sprouts and cooked beans are full of moisture, the perfect environment for bacteria to grow. Consuming them past their prime can lead to an upset stomach that might leave you wishing you hadn’t.

3. Deli Salads and Cold Cuts

Healthy delicious Quinoa Salad with lemon
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These sliced meats are prepped and packaged, but that doesn’t make them invincible. Listeria, a bacteria that can cause flu-like symptoms, loves deli meats. Avoid a potential hospital visit and toss them when the date says so.

4. Soft Cheeses

Soft Ripened Cheese
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Consider light ricotta or creamy brie. Unlike their hard cheese cousins, soft cheeses have high moisture content and are more prone to mold growth. Mold can sometimes be cut off hard cheeses, but soft cheeses are best enjoyed well before any fuzzy patches appear.

5. Unpasteurized Milk and Soft Drinks

Milk in bottle
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While some cheeses benefit from friendly bacteria, unpasteurized milk can harbor harmful ones. Stick to pasteurized milk to avoid a potential side of illness with your cereal. Soft drinks might not grow bacteria, but they’ll lose its fizz and flavor over time.

6. Raw or Cooked Rice

Egg Fried Rice Extravaganza
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Rice is a versatile grain, but cooked rice left at room temperature is a breeding ground for Bacillus cereus, a bacteria that can cause food poisoning. Refrigerate or freeze leftover rice promptly, and don’t trust day-old takeout rice.

7. Eggs

End-of-Day Eggs
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Eggs are a breakfast staple, but they have a natural protective coating that weakens over time. This allows harmful bacteria to enter the egg, which can lead to foodborne illness. Play it safe and crack those eggs before the expiration date.

8. Leftover Soup or Stew

The Humble Potato Soup
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Soups and stews are great for meal prepping, but they can harbor bacteria that multiply over time. Reheat leftovers to a safe temperature, but ditch them if they’ve been lingering in the fridge longer than they should.

9. Pre-cut and Chopped Fruits and Veggies 

Buffet table with fruits and various kind of food
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Consider a juicy apple. Its skin protects the good stuff inside. But pre-cut produce loses that shield, exposing the flesh to air and hungry bacteria. Chopping your fruits and veggies keeps them fresher for longer.

10. Opened Nut Butter 

Peanut Butter
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We all love a good smear of peanut butter, but once that jar is open, it’s exposed to oxygen. This oxygen turns the healthy fats in nut butter rancid, creating an unpleasant taste. Fresh is best for nut butter bliss.

11. Smoked Fish

This captivating stock photography encapsulates the art of fish
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Smoked salmon adds a decadent touch to brunch, but unlike its fresh counterpart, it’s more susceptible to bacterial growth. The smoking process helps preserve it, but it’s not a magic shield. Enjoy smoked fish soon after buying it, and give it a respectful goodbye when the expiration date arrives.

12. Leftover Pizza 

Big Pie Pizza
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Pizza is a leftover hero, but even heroes have weaknesses. While leftover slices can be fridge-saved and reheated for a delicious second life, there’s a catch. Refrigerate those slices within 2 hours of baking, and always reheat them to a piping hot temperature to kill any lingering bacteria.

13. Freshly Squeezed Juice 

Juicers join
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Homemade juice is a fantastic way to get your daily dose of vitamins, but unlike store-bought varieties, it lacks preservatives. This makes fresh juice a prime target for bacteria. Enjoy your homemade concoction right away, or toss it within a day to avoid an unwanted encounter with unfriendly microbes.

14. Cooked Ground Meat 

A high angle shot of the Ethiopian delicious Derek Tibs meat dish
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Ground meat like beef or turkey has a much larger surface area compared to a whole cut. This larger surface area provides more space for bacteria to multiply. Always cook ground meat fresh and refrigerate any leftovers within 2 hours. Expired ground meat is not worth the risk.

15. Garlic and Ginger Paste 

Garlic & Ginger Paste 
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Pre-made garlic and ginger pastes offer convenience, but that convenience comes with a hidden enemy – mold. The moist environment in these pastes makes them a breeding ground for mold growth. Fresh is always best when it comes to these flavorful ingredients. Invest in whole bulbs of garlic and ginger, and mince them yourself as needed for maximum freshness and flavor.

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