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Which Foods Are We Most Concerned About Going Off

Which Foods Are We Most Concerned About Going Off?

We’ve all eaten something past its sell-by date at some point. Some of us might have even contracted a nasty illness from doing so.

From confusion around sell-by dates to knowing how safe something is to eat after freezing, it can be concerning getting food safety right. Delving into this complex topic, we hope to provide some informative advice when you’re making those hunger-driven decisions.

We used Google data to discover exactly which foods cause the most concern around expiration, sell-by dates, and already opened or frozen products. What food are we most worried will cause us harm? Which foods will go off the quickest? And how can we prolong the shelf-life of our kitchen favorites? We decided to answer these questions, and more, in the following study. Read on to find out what we discovered…

The Foods We Are Most Concerned About Going Off Quickly

What foods we are concerned will go off

Looking at the collective concerns for food types, eggs received the most Google searches, with just under 23,000 concerned searches each month. Chicken (13,520) and milk (11,660) followed in 2nd and 3rd place respectively.

To no surprise, meat and dairy products dominated the top 10. This is likely because animal-based products have a higher risk of causing food poisoning. Some of the most dangerous bacteria, such as Salmonella, can be most easily contracted from meat and dairy due to infection during production, cross-contamination or improper cooking and storing. In fact, it’s estimated one in every 25 packages of chicken at the grocery store are contaminated with Salmonella, so it’s very important to cook chicken all the way through and store correctly to avoid contracting a nasty illness. 

Interestingly, even those adopting a meat and dairy-free diet were shown to have concerns. Almond Milk, a favorite milk substitute among the vegan community, took 10th position, with 1,800 average monthly searches. Typically, almond milk can last longer than cow’s milk, averaging 7 to 10 days of freshness compared to just five days for dairy. However, it can go bad, so you should look out for any signs of clumping, a thicker texture or a sour smell.

To get a better understanding of what exactly concerns consumers, we delved deeper into different search terms surrounding food going bad, starting with foods going off after expiration…

The Foods We Are Most Concerned About Going Off After Expiration

Foods we are concerned with being bad after the expiration date

With 8,100 monthly searches, eggs rise above milk (5,400) and yogurt (3,600) as the most concerning product post-expiration date. While best-by dates commonly found on cartons only indicate when the quality of eggs will begin to deteriorate, typically eggs can be eaten for some time after this. Most eggs have a healthy shelf-life of up to five weeks, with refrigeration needed to achieve optimal safety. You should be mindful to avoid storing eggs in your fridge door since the opening and closing motion can create fluctuating temperatures that will speed up rotting. 

When it comes to milk, often you get what you pay for, with the quality of the product a determining factor of its longevity. Most expiration dates are fairly accurate for milk products so you should pay attention to this. However, you can get away with pushing the boundaries for an extra day or two, look out for the tell-tale signs of milk expiring, including a bad smell, thickness and a lumpy appearance.

Next, we looked at whether the sell-by date was a cause for concern…

The Foods We Are Most Concerned About Going Off After Sell By

What foods we are concerned will be bad after sell by date

Topping the table yet again, eggs were found to be the biggest concern of any food past its sell-by date, receiving 14,800 searches per month, more than the other products listed combined. While a sell-by date is more of an indicator for grocery stores to stop selling the product, you can usually consume eggs up to three to five weeks after the sell-by date.

If you’re unsure, there are a couple of tricks you can use to test whether an egg has gone off before cracking it open. First, you can fill a bowl with cold water to see if the egg floats. A fresh egg will sink however, if the egg floats this means the egg is no longer as moist and air bubbles will have collected inside, a sure indicator the egg has rotten. You can also try shaking the egg. If you hear any sloshing noises, throw it out. If all else fails, crack open the egg and inspect for any deterioration in appearance or a bad smell.  

The Foods We Are Most Concerned About Going Off After Opening

Food products we are concerned will be bad after opening

When it comes to knowing what is safe to consume after opening, wine was the top concern in our study, with 5,400 monthly searches.  If you’re ever left with an unfinished bottle, you mustn’t allow it to oxygenate. Oxygen will turn red wine into vinegar if left exposed – not ideal for your next dinner party.

When it comes to storing opened wine, all wines should be refrigerated, kept out of sunlight, and recorked when possible. This will help slow down the oxidization process and keep your wine fresher for longer. Ideally, you should also store corked wine on its side, making sure the wine is always in contact with the cork to prevent oxidation. So, avoid storing wine upright in your fridge door.

Other items listed in our top 10, such as bacon, tofu, hummus, and cheese could benefit from a better packaging method once opened. Reclosable barrier bags will work for certain food types - nuts, cereals, and bread. While you may need something with more suction for meats, fish, and vegetables. Vacuum packaging is a safer storage method, preventing cross-contamination, dehydration or mold.

The Foods We Most Concerned About Going Off Once Frozen

Foods we are concerned will be bad after frozen

Finishing on the concerns around frozen products, meat took 8 of the top 10 places. Unsurprisingly, chicken (8,100) placed 1st, with close relative turkey (3,600) in 2nd place and beef (1,600) completing the top three positions.

The biggest concern many face is how to defrost meats safely. A refrigerator is always the safest option for thawing meat at a consistent temperature with little risk of bacteria forming. Just be sure to allow plenty of time for the meat to thaw out completely (around 48 hours for large cuts) and keep all meat at the bottom of your fridge to avoid any risk of drippings causing cross-contamination.

Another thing consumers need to be wary of is the risk of cross-contamination during the freezing process. All meats should be securely contained or wrapped to avoid any drippings infecting other foods. Vacuum-sealed packaging upon freezing could be a big benefit here to protect foods while reducing bulky containers and freeing up more space in your freezer.

Conclusion

From our study, it’s clear food safety is a big concern among consumers. And with 48 million people in the US alone falling sick from food-borne illnesses, it’s no surprise we are wary of the foods we eat.

But with USDA statistics showing the average American household wastes up to 40 percent of their food each year, it’s also clear there is confusion around throwing away otherwise safe foods. From sell-by labels causing uncertainty to a lack of knowledge around frozen foods and proper storage of opened products, there is some way to go to help improve public understanding and reduce the US’ food waste problem.

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