I Ate Food That Expired 24 Years Ago and Lived to Tell the Tale
Beware: those items in your pantry may actually be older than you realize.
Recently we purchased new salt and pepper shakers. I was filling them up when I noticed the tin of black pepper I was using looked a little old. Curious, I flipped the tin over to see if there was an expiration date. Unfortunately, there was.
The date on the bottom of the can was February of 1996. After doing some quick math on my fingers and toes I realized that this was 24 years ago. That means I must have purchased this black pepper when I was in college.
Stunned, I put the container down and thought about the journey this can of pepper must have been on. It went from college to my first apartment, to another apartment, to the condo I lived in with my wife before we got married and then to the house we moved into 20 years ago. Since then, it's just sat quietly in our cupboard, getting older every day.
I should make it clear that we very rarely use our pepper shaker (that's probably pretty obvious since it's been over two decades since it's been refilled). We have a pepper grinder that we use most of the time for cooking and eating. The shaker is really just there on the table for the off chance we need a little extra pepper while eating, which is pretty much only when we eat potato salad from the store and sprinkle a little over the top.
Worried that I may have been slowly poisoning myself, I Googled whether black pepper can actually spoil. The good news is that it can't. Most dried spices don't "go bad." They just lose their flavor.
While that's good news, I now have an even bigger concern; have I become an old man? Usually, you only hear stories like this about people's grandparents. You know, Granny dies and they clean out the cupboards only to find jars of pickles from 1927.
Please learn a lesson from me. This year, during your spring cleaning, be sure to check all of those expiration dates in your pantry. While you may not get sick from eating some old pepper, you could possibly die of embarrassment if someone else finds it first.