October 12, 2010, - 10:02 pm

Toss It or . . . Taste It?: How Long is My Frozen Food Still Good?

By Debbie Schlussel

I put this up on my Facebook page (which is over the max of 5,000 friends and 1,000 waiting friend requests, so please join my fan page, where I also posted it), and I’m getting a lot of good–and very funny responses. But now I want yours:

For how long is frozen food still good? I have two packages in my freezer–one of hot wings, the other stuffed cabbage with meat in it. Both are from a Passover 2009, so we’re talking 1.5 years. It says to use within 6 months on the box. But how long is it really good for if it’s been frozen and packaged the whole time? Should I toss ’em . . . or try ’em? I hate wasting but . . . .

Here are a couple of responses (nearly 100) from Facebook:

Chava Nikki Docks:

(No offense here, gentleman) Debbie, DON’T LISTEN TO MEN ON THIS SUBJECT!!! They’ll eat anything!!!! LOLOLOL
Toss it all…..it’s cheaper to get another dinner than a trip to the ER cuz of food poisoning. (G-d forbid)

Pete Carr:

Ok Deb … Here’s what you do. First, allow the wings and cabbage to totally thaw out. Then place both packages on your kitchen table. Observe said packages carefully and continuously for about 20 minutes. If the packages of food fail to produce their own means of movement then both are OK to eat. “No legs – No problem.” ‘;7)

Toss It or Taste It? What Should I do?

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35 Responses

Toss it. Why take the risk of getting sick?

Norman Blitzer on October 12, 2010 at 10:18 pm

I have had vegetarian food that was frozen 2-3 years, but if there is meat I would not take the chance.

Little Al on October 12, 2010 at 10:20 pm

Don’t Throw That In The Garbage – Until You Read This!

I4got on October 12, 2010 at 10:40 pm

    Don’t Throw That In The Garbage – Until You Read This!
    By Jo-Ann Heslin, MA, RD, CDN, Food & Nutrition Columnist – HealthNewsDigest.com
    Aug 23, 2010 – 6:04:00 AM

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    (HealthNewsDigest.com) – If stored properly, most foods can be eaten days, weeks or even years past the packaged date. Remember the cans of Spam found after World War II? A recent survey showed that 76% of US consumers believe that a food is unsafe to eat once the date printed on the package has passed.

    With different types of dates on food labels it is no wonder that food dating can be confusing. Let’s sort out the dates.

    Most dating regulations are required by states or cities and the requirements vary. The only consistent regulation is that when a food date appears it must contain the month, day and year. The federal government only requires dates on infant formula and some baby food. If egg cartons display the USDA shield they must carry a sell-by date.

    Sell-by or purchase-by dates expect that you will eat the food after the printed date. It tells the supplier when to remove products from the shelf. If you buy milk on its sell by date you can safely drink it for up to 7 days afterward. It’s estimated that every month over 60% of us dump a quart of perfectly good milk.

    Dates on eggs are even more misunderstood. You can safely eat eggs for 3 to 5 weeks after their date expires as long as they are kept refrigerated. As eggs age both the whites and yolks become runnier and more difficult to separate, but they rarely spoil.

    Best-if-used-by dates refer to unopened food packages. If stored correctly, all foods can be opened and eaten after the printed date without harm. Shoppers believe use-by dates refer to safety when they are actually about quality – taste, texture, odor, or nutrient quality. The decline in quality is gradual and will not even be noticed at first. Eventually, cereal may taste less fresh and some canned products, like fruits and vegetables, may lose texture but the foods are safe to eat.

    An expiration date is just that, the date after which the food should not be eaten because of quality or health issues. However, most expiration dates are quite conservative, so eating a food 1 to 3 days past the date is safe. The exception to the expiration date rule is eggs, which I’ve already noted. Confused?

    You are not alone, the USDA estimates that we throw away close to 29 million tons of food a year. Americans throw out a lot of perfectly good food because the date on the package has passed. This waste has significant environmental and economic impact.

    Milk – if properly refrigerated it is safe and nutritious for 5 to 7 days after the sell-by date.

    Cottage cheese – will last 10 to 14 days after opening the package. Today most cottage cheese is pasteurized which reduces spoilage.

    Store bought mayonnaise – will be fresh for 3 to 4 months after opening when stored in the refrigerator.

    Yogurt – is safe to eat for 7 to 10 days after its sell-by date. If kept a little longer it will still be fine but the gel may separate, the taste may get tangier and stronger, and the live cultures will start to die off.

    It’s estimated that the average American household throws out 14% of all the food bought. In these tough economic times that is a lot of waste. Think before you dump.

    © NRH Nutrition Consultants, Inc.
    Jo-Ann Heslin, MA, RD, CDN is a registered dietitian and the author of the nutrition counter series for Pocket Books with 12 current titles and sales in excess of 8 million books. The books are widely available at your local or on-line bookseller.
    Current titles include:
    The Calorie Counter, 5th Ed., 2010
    The Ultimate Carbohydrate Counter, 3rd Ed., 2010
    The Complete Food Counter, 3rd ed., 2009
    The Fat Counter, 7th ed., 2009
    The Healthy Wholefoods Counter, 2008
    The Cholesterol Counter, 7th Ed., 2008
    The Diabetes Carbohydrate and Calorie Counter, 3rd Ed., 2007
    For more information on Jo-Ann and her books, go to The Nutrition Experts

    Subscribe to our FREE Ezine and receive current Health News, be eligible for discounted products/services and coupons related to your Health. We publish 24/7.

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    I4got on October 12, 2010 at 10:53 pm

      Damn,,, that is a great information tool you just shared with us… thanks!

      sharon on October 13, 2010 at 10:48 am

It is probably still edible but freezer burns
would most likely render it to be rather
as a kid would say “YUCK”.

STANLEY DLUZIN on October 12, 2010 at 10:44 pm

There are bags that can prevent freezer burn. And there bags that can keep fresh produce and meet fresh for some time.
Waste not, want not.

Frozen food will never taste the same as fresh food but its an inexpensive way to enjoy life. And with the variety of gourmet food now sold in the frozen section of the supermarket, there is no reason any one needs to eat out at a high end restaurant any more for the experience.

NormanF on October 12, 2010 at 11:35 pm

When I was a USN Corpsman, we had a saying about unknown food in the reefer, “When in doubt, throw it out”. Please don’t take a chance, we need you and I look forward to your column. G– be with you.

Bruce A. Burr on October 12, 2010 at 11:38 pm

I would just Passover the idea of eating them, especialy the cabbage stuffed with cow. The wings may be ok but did you ever notice why there is so much sauce on the spicy wings? That’s to cover up the chicken hair and sometimes feathers too.

Howard Winkler on October 13, 2010 at 12:07 am

Bury it.

Shy Guy on October 13, 2010 at 12:13 am

Toss. Anything that was “fresh” and frozen past a year most likely is freezer burned.

Barb on October 13, 2010 at 12:38 am

Even if it’s not spoiled or freezer burned it won’t taste good after 18 mos. Even vacuum packed food has it’s day.
Must not have been that great to begin with if you forgot about it for that long anyway.
Use your senses:
If it looks dry or has white spots, smells bad or no smell it’s gone to pasture. Why insult your other sense: taste, or worse, wind up in a haspital or at the least with irritated bowels.
I see you’re like me and hate to waste food but after 1 1/2 yrs. it’s no longer food anyway, just landfill.
Toss it and get a happy meal 🙂

theShadow on October 13, 2010 at 2:10 am

Toss it. How did you manage to keep something in your freezer since Passover 2009? Didn’t you have to defrost at least once, for Passover 2010?

Miranda Rose Smith on October 13, 2010 at 2:39 am

Leave a smidgen of it on your back porch in the evening. If you find a dead squirrel or raccoon there the following morning, I think it’s a safe bet that you probably shouldn’t consume the rest of it.

Irving on October 13, 2010 at 3:58 am

Leave a smidgen of it on your back porch in the evening. If you find a dead squirrel or raccoon there the following morning, I think it’s a safe bet that you probably shouldn’t consume the rest of it.

Irving on October 13, 2010 at 3:58 am


I thought of suggesting “Defrost it and leave it out for the stray cats; they live on garbage,” but not even a stray cat could/should eat something that expired a year ago.

Miranda Rose Smith on October 13, 2010 at 5:06 am

Send them too me, Ill stuff them in my convection oven for 20 mins and enjoy while I watch Detroit win their second game of the season.

Anthony on October 13, 2010 at 5:46 am

I just defrosted my fridge/freezer (first time in 15 years) and I found Birds Eye chicken breasts, best before June 2008, so I must have bought ’em in 2007. Cooked and ate no problems. There was various other stuff (fish, sausages etc) well past it’s use by date and I ate the lot with no problems. The only thing I ditched was an unopened bag of vege-mince (soya mince) which I once foolishly bought to eat healthily. It went in the garbage.
As a p.s., my fridge/freezer would not restart after defrosting so I have ordered a new one (frost free!) due tomorrow. This one should see me out, I hope.

Henry Wood, UK on October 13, 2010 at 6:30 am

Didn’t some Russians eat part of a wooly mammoth that had been frozen for thousands of years?

Agen T. on October 13, 2010 at 8:35 am

    Yes, but they were Zeks in the Gulag.

    Occam's Tool on March 17, 2011 at 4:56 pm

There’s edible and then there’s Good. Frozen prepared foods are not my idea of Good.

jack on October 13, 2010 at 9:01 am

    And “Kosher for Passover” frozen and the word “good” rarely belong in the same sentence… 😉

    Doda McCheesle on October 13, 2010 at 1:43 pm

Oh, don’t listen to all these sissies…eat it! I would.

I hate throwing out food.

Look at those survival shows on Discovery Channel, or Andrew Zimmern on Bizarre Food on the Travel Channel. They eat far worse stuff than this.

I think I have a few items in my freezer that Abraham Lincoln packaged while he was an intern at the food plant in Illinois.

If you want, I’ll email you my address, you can send it to me, and I’ll eat it!

Jeff W. on October 13, 2010 at 9:29 am

If your a single guy, there is no expiration date…

Brian Cuban on October 13, 2010 at 9:50 am

If yours is a frost-free freezer like the compartments in most uprights, then the food is ‘toast’. The freeze-thaw cycles of those freezers ruin ice cream in a hurry and all meat will be freezer burnt in a short time. A non-frost-free freezer chest that has never lost power should have kept the food rather edible unless air has been allowed to enter the package. But, as said before: “when in doubt, throw it out”. (hmmm, what else could we apply that rule to?)


KeithP on October 13, 2010 at 9:59 am


I agree w/ Jeff W – don’t listen to the wusses above. Eat it.

When I was a bachelor, I once had ice-cream that had been in my freezer for 2 years. Nothing happened. Nothing will happen here either. Just thaw it, cook it as normal, & eat it.

Infidel Pride on October 13, 2010 at 10:34 am

It really depends on freezer temperature. If it’s regular freezer in refrigerator, then 1,5 year is too long.
I guess the meat is processed, mixed, so more likely to rot, ect.
Better to toss out and check freezer more often.

gr77 on October 13, 2010 at 11:50 am

I used to be a microbiologist before I became a patent attorney. Toss the goods.

Contrary to belief, frozen food can and does often spoil. Why? Because there are some bacteria that function and multiply and very, cold temperatures, just like there are some thermobacillus bacteria that thrive just below the boiling point of water.

Frozen dairy products are most at risk, given that many already have a certain level of bacteria in them. Solid beef products are less of a risk, and in fact some beef are aged and extremely cold temperatures.

Chicken is, of course, different from beef. The meat on aged, frozen chicken drops in quality over a given length of time.

I do not know about the ground meat. That is probably okay, but when meat is ground in the processing, bacteria is acquired. A rule of them is no more than six months for ground meat, at best. I would advise no more than a couple months, personally, although ground meat should always be eaten as quickly as possible.

Jonathan Grant on October 13, 2010 at 12:18 pm

Debbie, Just cook fully once thawed. Believe it or not I have apple pies I fresh bake in my freezer from last apple season. All are stored well. Any bacteria that builds up with the freezer set to max…is next to nill. However, fully recooking everything takes the worry out. Eitherway, after 30+ years, no problems yet.

andrew on October 13, 2010 at 12:42 pm

Texture also breaks down with prolonged cold.

Even if your food is “okay”, but there is a loss of flavor and texture with many foods. Remember, lyophilization takes place and there is a loss of moisture in the product.

Jonathan Grant on October 13, 2010 at 12:56 pm

Jeff W, Infidel Pride


Norman Blitzer on October 13, 2010 at 2:45 pm

I once ate a frozen diner fed to me by my boss. It was expired over 5 years, a fact I was not aware of. Tasted kind of funny. I threw up and was sick for days. My boss was fine. Moral of the story is be careful with food offered by someone that grew up dirt poor during the depression. Even if they’re a gazzillionaire they NEVER throw food away.

Brian on October 13, 2010 at 5:47 pm


I have a Tilia Vacuum-pack Food Saver that I use for meats, fish and poultry. I also use it to preserve cheeses, and even some vegetables. And, when I have things like what you are talking about, if it looks like I may not use them up right away, I will vacuum-pack them.

Some meats, fish and poultry I have kept vacuum packed for up to two years. And they are just as safe to use as the day I sealed them. What will cause frozen foods to become dangerous to eat even if just frozen in the containers they come in, unless they are vacuum sealed, is oxidation. That is what causes spoilage.

My choice would be to bite the bullet and toss the items.

Jim King on October 13, 2010 at 8:32 pm

If you buy meat like steak in bulk, wrap each piece tightly in aluminum foil than place in a freezer bag. Aside from vacuum packing it’s the best way to avoid freezer burn and makes it easier to seperate the pieces for cooking.

With frozen foods I’d worry more about the quality than spoilage. If it’s questionable I’d say better to toss the food than to toss your cookies 😉

theShadow on October 13, 2010 at 11:20 pm

I’ve been real sick from food poisoning a couple of times. I am real careful. Two years? No way. Frozen? Think about the past year or so. How many power outages and how long did they last? Around here, it ain’t worth it.

Samurai on October 13, 2010 at 11:37 pm

I’ve found that if the food was fresh frozen it can be used indefinitely. Just cook well to be sure which I do anyway. I reference to eggs. I’ve had eggs in my frig for a few months. I always check them before using, but to date have had absolutely no problems.

Naomi Romm on November 25, 2010 at 6:53 pm

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