Is it ever OK to serve expired food?

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With more retailers and operators moving toward serving “ugly” produce, it’s clear that looks aren’t everything when it comes to food. But what if an item is visually appealing—and past its expiration date?

While the consistency of food safety labeling may be in question, The National Restaurant Association encourages its members to adhere to the FDA Food Code, NRA spokeswoman Rachel Sabales says. It reads: “The day or date marked by the food establishment may not exceed a manufacturer’s use-by date if the manufacturer determined the use-by date based on food safety.”

“It’s not recommended to go past a use-by date,” she says. “Especially for ready-to-eat foods; there’s normally a food safety reason.”

A study by the National Resources Defense Council found that 90 percent of Americans occasionally throw out food based on date labels out of concern for safety—even though those labels aren’t standardized. A bill introduced in California in March looks to create two date labels: one reading “best if used by,” to indicate quality and flavor, and “expires on,” to communicate safety, Los Angeles magazine reports. Similar bills have been proposed in Congress. 

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