These foods that almost never expire

If their expiration date has passed, this packet of broken rice and this brick of juice not yet opened seem still to be consumable. Really? Overview with specialists in these almost imperishable products to keep in our closets.

This box of cookies at the top of the shelf is well past the expiration date but appears to be in perfect condition. Just like that bottle of beer left in the vegetable drawer. But now, when we open it, doubt takes hold of us. Will I poison myself? So, very often, we prefer to throw away. According to a study by the Environment and Energy Management Agency (Ademe), the most recent on the subject, published in May 2016, around 10 million tonnes of edible food is wasted each year, i.e. l equivalent of 150 kg per capita.

But what are these foods and drinks that can still be eaten for days or even months after the expiration date? Answers with the chemist Raphaël Haumont and Laurent Guillier, scientist of the flood risk assessment unit at the National Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health Safety (ANSES).

Sugar and salt, zero risk

There is no life inside at allRaphaël Haumont, chemist

Some foods simply do not display a use-by date (DLC). This is the case with salt and sugar. These condiments have the advantage of having a low molecular composition, which therefore limits their degradation, as confirmed by the chemist Raphaël Haumont. “There is no life inside at all,” explains the specialist. The salt contains chlorine and sodium atoms while the sugar comes from a sucrose molecule. ”Without living activity, bacteria cannot settle down and cannot find food.

“Bacteria need water to survive,” adds Laurent Guillier, a scientist from the flood risk assessment unit at ANSES. Salt and sugar contain very little. This is why they are used as a method of food preservation in order to lengthen the life of perishable products such as jam or dry ham.

Pasta, rice, flour … Dehydrated food

This ancestral method of preservation has, therefore, inspired manufacturers: it suffices to dehydrate a product to stop growth, or even inactivate microorganisms. But below this threshold, the lower the rate, the more we arrive at very stable and almost imperishable products. ”After salt and sugar, we then find flour, cornstarch, dry cereals such as rice or pasta, coffee, spices, and oils.

Most of the time, these products have the following expiration indication: “Consume preferably before …”. It corresponds to the date of minimum durability (DDM). “If we exceed this deadline, there is no more risk to health”, assures Laurent Guillier of ANSES. The only drawback is that the product may lose its taste and/or nutritional qualities over time due to the interaction of its multiple components with the external environment. “The fats contained in chocolate, cookies or oils oxidize in the open air and eventually leave a rancid taste over time,” explains Raphaël Haumont. Spices are no exception. “If you eat a piece of pepper, you’re going to ingest hundreds of aromatic molecules. They are the ones that will give roundness in the mouth and persistent tastes add the chemist. But they are very volatile and can be altered by a combination of heat and light. ”

Sterilized drinks

What about drinks whose liquid appearance shows a stronger presence in the water? They also belong to the DDM family, provided they are stored at room temperature and not in the refrigerator. “UHT milk and the various juices are generally sterilized products,” observes Laurent Guillier of ANSES. We put the food liquid in the packaging after destroying all the microorganisms that could be there. ”In practice, if the brick or the bottle does not leak in the packaging, it does not present any danger to the organism according to the scientist, and can thus be preserved for several months after the date. “Fruit juices, however, risk losing their vitamins when they are stored in poor conditions, exposed to light for example ”, nuance Laurent Guillier.

Alcohol, this “self-healing”

Good wine gets better with age, we are told. Raphaël Haumont confirms this. “It contains alcohol, so it’s almost a self-healing: it prevents the development of bacteria,” analyzes the chemist. “The only yeasts that resist alcohol are those that are used to make this drink,” says scientist Laurent Guillier.

Here, conservation does not rhyme with moderation. “The higher the alcohol level, the better the liquid will be kept,” says Laurent Guillier. The whiskey Grandpa, Grandma and Suze rum of your honeymoon in Guadeloupe therefore still have a bright future ahead of them.

How to prolong their conservation?

 In an inert smoked glass or metal bottle, preferably coldRaphaël Haumont, chemist

There are tricks to extend the shelf life and especially the flavor of food and drink. The food container, in particular, should not be neglected. No more plastic bags, hello hermetic Tupperware boxes. “If exposed to the open air, sugar takes on moisture and hardens,” notes Raphaël Haumont. In the same logic, the jar of honey, this other derivative of sugars, is closed automatically after use, to avoid ending up with a crystallized block.

Sparkling alcoholic drinks such as champagne also have poor contact with ambient air. To better preserve these delicious bubbles and extend the pleasure for a few more days, the chemist recommends using a special champagne stopper or adding CO2 with a siphon cartridge.

Finally, as manufacturers generally point out, heat and light are among the worst enemies of food. “As with oils, spices are best stored in an inert smoked glass or metal bottle, preferably in the cold,” says the chemist. After sorting in the closet, you will not escape the great cleaning of the refrigerator to store all these precious vials.

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