Food - use by date - advice please

I bought some lamb shanks vacuum packed, forgot about it and they expired yesterday. Do you think that they Will last another day and be safe to cook and eat or is it better just to dump them?
Many thanks.

We couldn’t safely tell you but usually your nose can. Wash first and sniff. Any bit of recoil on your part or anything that doesn’t smell like meat, then chuck it. I’ve had meat last well past the date, and others go off well before the date. Always wash and smell.


Yep, if it don’t look right, or it don’t smell right, it ain’t right! Bin it!

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If it’s ‘use by’ rather than best before, the official line is of course that you shouldn’t eat it.
Personally I prefer to use my sense of smell, although I find that those vacuum packs used by supermarkets often make fresh meat smell bad, and feel slimy, even when in date.
As long as the meat has been refrigerated I wouldn’t hesitate to use it myself, especially if it’s only one day out of date.

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Forgot to mention they are marinated which makes smelling them a little bit tricky.

As a teenager I worked in a butchers and on the deli counter. If it smells bad it is bad. If it is discoloured, cut off the discolouration and if it doesn’t smell then repack it and put it back out on the counter.

No such thing as best before dates back then.


Personally I wouldn’t worry about a day or two for something that is going to be properly cooked, so lamb shanks or beef steak for example fine, especially if you are sure they have been kept cool enough.




To @suzywong before you deleted your post. Who said that, Buddha or Confucius?

Dunno, but the one I remember is one of the Richard Sharpe (Sean Bean) “Napoleonic” TV movies, where his Irish Sgt., Patrick Harper, has been caught in an explosion, and is lying on the ground believing that he has been mortally wounded. The Priest rocks up

Patrick Harper: Am I going to die, Father?
Father Curtis: Yes, my son. Have you any last wishes?
Patrick Harper: I wish I’d married Ramona, Father.
Father Curtis: I can grant you that before you go. Quickly, now. Do you Patrick Harper take this woman to be your lawful wedded wife? Say “I do!”
Patrick Harper: I do.
Father Curtis: Do you Ramona Gonzales take this man to be your lawful wedded husband? Say “I do!”
Ramona: I do.
Father Curtis: I now pronounce you man and wife. Now, get up and kiss the bride.
Patrick Harper: I thought you said I was going to die, Father!
Father Curtis: Sure, we’re all going to die, Patrick.


…and if it looks right, smells right, but seems iffy after cooking discard it.

I’m currently cooking some beef that was use by 2 days ago - seemed ok before cooking but will shortly see how it tastes, either way don’t think it will kill me.

Apparently from the labels many of thes modern plastic packaged meats (kids like M&S ribs which are marinated) have been cooked sous-vide but won’t last forever.


Great… they just happened to be from Marks&Spa. I’ll say me last rites.:flushed:

Common sense. Fridge temperature low, smell, a day or two over is fine.

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The vacuum packed meats always seem to last forever and I wouldn’t hesitate to use it if it was 2-3 days over the use by date. Just give it a smell and that’ll confirm, but don’t smell within 15 mins of opening, because there’s always a stale kind of smell when first opened.

I think it was the M&S box that said they were sous vide.

Yes, I’ve just checked it and they are. Let’s see if they last till Saturday. :crossed_fingers:

Invite a few friends around for a lamb shank dinner.
If at some point during the meal there’s a knock on the door and it’s a bloke in a black cape and carrying a large scythe, you know your in trouble.


I think there is some leeway built in,

We throw out vast quantities of food because of this ‘ use by’ ‘ best before’ malarky

If it’s refrigerated, vacuum packed I wouldn’t worry.


Bad advice here.

Do not wash raw meat before cooking.

Bacteria on the surface (quite normal and expected) are then easily splashed onto surfaces, utensils and skin. This is especially an issue with chicken but applies to all really, especially if you think it is at the upper limit for use. It is a food poisoning risk, and quite a common cause of these issues at home.

Cook your lamb properly and you should be fine.



If the vacuum of the pack is still tight you should be ok.
Bacteria growth produces a gas that would blow up the vacuum a little.

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In law in UK/EU, a use-by date indicates a food which, from the microbiological point of view, is highly perishable and in consequence likely after a short period to constitute an immediate danger to human health. (As opposed to a best-before date that effectively indicates a period for which the manufacturers guarantees that any deterioration will not be significant, and which likely will be quite safe for considerably longer, if possibly of deteriorating quality.)

Putting aside misuse of the term ‘use by’ by manufacturers wrongly put on foods that aren’t likely after a short period to constitute an immediate danger to human health, which unfortunately does happen, the term in effect means that if stored correctly the food is guaranteed to be safe until the given date, and that there is a very real risk that it may not be after that date. Clearly it is not an instant switch from safe to dangerous, and prudent manufacturers will err on the side of giving a bit of leeway to cope with any variability during production.

The only truly safe advice is that you cannot be certain the food will be safe to eat after the use-by date, and the responsibility for any decision to use it lies squarely with the individual choosing to do so. That said, with awareness of different risk with different foods, and suitable caution, it may be entirely reasonable to use food some time after that date. Meat at the point of slaughter of a healthy animal is effectively sterile. The more it is processed (e.g. cut up), the greater the risk of contamination with bacteria, and the greater the potential bacterial load, meaning the shorter the time before the bacteria have multiplied enough or produced enough toxins to cause food poisoning. A lot will depend on the rigorousness of hygienic control practised by manufacturer, including temperature control and packaging. So a whole joint is likely to be lower risk than one that has been sliced. Mince (and products made from mince) is likely to be highest risk.

You can glean something from how long a date after manufacture has been assigned, and that could be a useful guide: if assigned only one day, then maybe another day could be very significant, if assigned a fortnight then maybe two or three days is negligible.

With something simple like meat you can also use your senses: if it smells unpleasant reject it. If it looks slimy reject it even if it doesn’t smell bad. If vaccuum packed but packaging bulging then reject. If you cook it and it tastes odd abandon eating it. These don’t guarantee that there is no problem, but would remove a large proportion of instances. And as Dr Mark suggested, if uncertain perhaps err on cooking well, not eating rare - it won’t stop poisoning caused by any toxins that have been produced, but the more common food poisoning problems with fresh meat are caused by consuming sufficient live pathogenic bacteria rather than toxins they leave behind, and thorough heating will kill the bacteria. These are the guidelines I use for myself - and have been involved professionally with food safety and food law for many years.

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