What food can you eat past the sell-by date?

We all find a dust-covered can of soup or rarely used baking product at the back of the cupboard from time to time.

However, next time, don’t be so quick to shamefully giggle and throw it away. Products like these will usually still be perfectly edible!


✔ Canned food

Canned food goes through an extremely high heat process to kill bacteria and sterilise the contents. This makes canned food safe to eat years after the sell-by date.

Fun fact: Back in 1974, canned food found in the wreck of a boat that sank in 1865 was tested and although the food content had deteriorated in appearance, scientists said it was still safe to eat!


✔ Bread

If you store your bread in the fridge you can use it for up to two weeks past the sell-by date. Even if it tastes a bit stale for a sandwich, it will be great for toast.


✔ Frozen meat

All meat deteriorates in quality when frozen, but it will still be safe to eat after the the sell-by date.


✔ Biscuits

Biscuits were a favourite for sailors due to their ability to be stored for weeks. If they're unopened, you can eat them for weeks after the sell-by date.


✔ Eggs

Keeping your eggs in the fridge may increase their usability by up to three weeks past the sell-by date. You can do a quick test by putting the eggs in a bowl of water - if they sink they're still good to eat, if they float, gases have been released so don’t use them.


✔ Dried pasta

You can eat dried pasta for three years after the sell-by date if it's been kept in an airtight container.


✔ Hard cheese

Spores from mould often pass through soft cheese quite quickly, but with a hard cheese like cheddar, you can cut off the mould and eat the rest.


✔ Pickles

Pickles have been preserved so can last for a long time past their sell-by date.


✔ Frozen vegetables

These should last indefinitely!


✔ Yogurt

As long as it hasn’t been opened, it should be fine several weeks past sell-by date. Do the sniff test and if it smells OK it should be fine.


✔ Soy sauce

Soy sauce is full of salt which is a natural preservative. If kept sealed it should be fine years after the sell-by date.


✔ Sugar

If it’s kept in an airtight container, sugar should last indefinitely.


✔ White rice

As white rice is refined, the preservatives means it's unlikely to decay if kept in an airtight container.

The natural crystallisation of starch in rice can lead to a stale taste over the years, but it's safe to eat. Also watch out for rice weevils - tiny bugs that can appear in your rice or flour. If the rice appears to be moving - throw it away!

Brown rice doesn’t keep as long as white rice. It can become oily and smell bad when the fat reacts with the air.


✔ Vinegar

Vinegar is used as a natural preservative so you can ignore that sell-by date.


✔ Bicarbonate of Soda

You can use bicarbonate of soda for years after the sell-by date, but it might lose some of it's power as a raising agent. If your scones seem a bit flat use the bicarbonate of soda as a household cleaner instead.


Food is absolutely safe to eat past the sell-by date as there's little bacterial risk. The reasoning behind sell-by dates are purely for quality and quickly shifting stock. So next time you find a dusty tin can at the back of your cupboard - open it, use it, and feel good!

Anoushka Grover