How old is old when it comes to frozen food? - GulfToday

How old is old when it comes to frozen food?

Meena Janardhan

Writer/Editor/Consultant. She has over 25 years of experience in the fields of environmental journalism and publishing.

Writer/Editor/Consultant. She has over 25 years of experience in the fields of environmental journalism and publishing.


Picture used for illustrative purpose only.

When was the last time you checked your freezer for foods that are fresh enough to eat? For many people, freezers are their go-to for storing bulk items that can be frozen. In these Covid times, the freezer is a sort of lifesaver when people are still trying to limit their exposure to the outside world. They might shop once a week during which time they bulk buy tinned, dried and frozen goods, even milk with a long life. In fact, isn’t this the advice being given by people claiming to be experts in living under lockdown or in bunkers?

I think, like many people around the globe, we went a little crazy and bought anything from the freezer section that was remotely edible, even if it wasn’t the brand we were familiar with or even if we weren’t sure that it would taste like cardboard or even if it was anything we would normally eat. These things were bought frantically and dumped into the freezer in case the supermarkets ran out of food or we couldn’t go out at all.

Let’s be honest, some months back we were all driven into a state of panic, by our own mindset, into bulk buying anything and everything we could dump into our shopping trolley, even if it costs the earth to buy. These things were then dumped into the back of the freezer not to be touched, unless there was an emergency.

But everybody knows that things get forgotten in the back or bottom of the freezer because we eventually come to our senses and began to purchase our normal everyday goods which then go into the front of the bulk bought items in the freezer. The frozen goods are now hidden from sight and more often than not, forgotten.

A survey carried out in Britain has shown that millions of people have left and forgotten food in the freezer that probably expired more than 5 years ago. In fact, these forgotten items are not just supermarket bought but often homemade foods like stews and casseroles. Many people believe that, since these are frozen solid, they are still safe to eat. I can understand where they are coming from. We once heard of an archeological dig where scientists scraped off yeast cultures from a 4,500-year-old pottery from Egypt and then used that culture to make bread which they then ate. That culture was from over 4,000 years ago so from everybody else’s point of view what is 5 years in comparison?

Therefore, these people might have a point. Granted, food that was frozen 5 years ago may still be edible without causing any harm per se. But something that was frozen that long ago may not necessarily look or taste as appetising as something that was made today, or even last week. Moreover, one important thing we have to bear in mind is that frozen foods still have an expiry date. Now, if the food can be stored indefinitely and then eaten years down the line, why would there be an expiry date? There is a piece of information that is clearly missing here and we should all do our research to find out what that is.

The thing to remember here is that many a shop bought frozen food often taste like cardboard and look like they’d been stomped on even when they were packed and frozen a month before they hit the supermarket shelves. So imagine how much worse they might taste five years down the line.

It is so important to check your fridge and freezer every week for expired goods and things that might be going off. For example, I have found that a salad I made on Saturday still goes off by Monday or Tuesday even though it has been in the fridge. We also keep skin freshening sprays and certain medications, particularly for burns and scalds, in the fridge. All of these have an expiry date so we diligently look through our fridge for anything that has expired or anything that looks or smells off. We look in the freezer, the vegetable compartment and every shelf for items that might have been forgotten because something fresher was placed in front of it. Frozen does not necessarily mean good enough to eat, especially not after 5 years!

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