"This jar of curry sauce is seven years out of date. Should I use it?"

I’m one of those people who always checks use-by dates. Not only do I check use-by dates, I check those sentences in tiny print that tell you the tub of yoghurt needs to be eaten within seven days of opening, or the ham within four days. I’ll go a day or so beyond the limits, if something looks and smells okay, but that’s about as far as I’ll push it. I had a bad experience with some dodgy mince many years ago, and I’ve never been able to forget it.

Anyway, that’s me. Then there’s a woman calling herself cavefelem who posted on British website Mumsnet a few days ago:

“Just found a jar of cook-in curry sauce with a bb [best before] date of April 2009. Seal is still intact. As it is a curry sauce I’m not sure I will be able to tell if it’s gone off. Shall I just bung it in the slow cooker and not tell DH [darling husband]?”

For many people, the answer was a clear “no”. Or something rather less polite.

“Chuck it in the bin, you grubby mare!” replied ThisPasadenaHomemaker.

“You’d trick your DH into eating seven-year-old food?” asked CelestialLight. “Seriously? That’s vile.”

“Has the apocalypse come and you’re living in a dystopian nightmare world, where humans have formed feral gangs, desperately fighting over the last few surviving resources from before the atomic war?” Sniv wanted to know. “If not, then no, you don’t need to eat seven-year-old jars of curry sauce.”

So you have jars of sauce that should have been used when Kevin Rudd was prime minister. Clean-out time. Photo via iStock.

But there were others who would have used it.

"I hate to waste anything," lljkk posted. "I'd eat it, no hesitation (as long as it smells and tastes okay)."

"In ye olden days, bottling/jarring was what we did to preserve," wrote doradoo. "It's the same as canning and they last forever."

In the end, cavefelem didn't use the curry sauce.

"I told DH about the bb date and he was up for trying it," she wrote. "But I really didn't want to be responsible for encouraging others to eat stuff well out of date so I binned it. I will have to wait for my chicken curry."

But could she have used it?

The sniff test. Not reliable. Photo via iStock.
Lydia Buchtmann, spokesperson for the Food Safety Information Council, says it's important to note the food had a "best before", not a "use by" date.
"Food with a 'best before' date can still be used after that date for a while - but not seven years - but may have lost nutrition or quality," she explains. "Never use a food after its 'use by' date, and it's illegal to sell it after that date.
"Also remember once a jar is open to follow any instructions on the label, like, 'Keep refrigerated and use within three days.'"
Buchtmann points out that the "sniff test" is a myth.
"Food can taste and smell fine but still give you food poisoning."
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