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Old 07-10-2007, 12:45 PM   #1
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Shelf Life of Opened Items in refrigerator

Hi. I am new to the forum. I would like to say hello (Hello! ) and just jump right in with a question.

What is the shelf-life of opened items in your refrigerator? For instance, if I open a bottle of barbecue sauce today that has a date of 7/01/08 printed on it, how long is it safe to use once opened? How about ketchup? A jar of pickles? A jar of jelly/jam? Pasta sauce? Salad dressing? Stir-fry sauce? A jar of diced/copped garlic? Mayonnaise?

I'm just wondering if the date printed on the jar/bottle is the unopened date or if it pertains to the opened one, too? This is just a general question. I'm not looking for a response to each item...just listing examples so you know what types of items I am talking about.

I am not new to cooking. I am kind of fanatical about food safety though and, since I don't know the answer to this question, I tend to throw things away very often...probably much sooner than necessary.

Any thoughts/insights would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

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Old 07-10-2007, 01:08 PM   #2
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Hi, and welocome to the site.

The food safety is very important. The first thing I'd recomend is to start buying things in smaller container, since you are throwing stuff away. The second is to check Food safety guide lines, wait till Vera Blue shows up she'll tell you all about. Personaly I go by look, by smel, obviously date is important.

Here is some info:

Food Expiration Date

MSNBC - Dateline

I'm sure you know that, not only safety but the taste has to be a factor in using opened foods. They do tend to loose some of the taste and some of the quality, or taste like some other foods that are seating on ashelf even though they may still be perfectly safe to eat.
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Old 07-10-2007, 01:17 PM   #3
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Welcome to DC Miss BeachChick...

The date on jars/packages etc are normally expiration dates or best if used by dates etc. After an item is opened, then other things come into consideration not the least of which is common sense. How does it taste, look, feel, smell etc. If you have any question about it's freshness from a safty point of view, then you know what to do. Pitch it. I guess my short answer would be there are no hard and fast rules. Everyone has to do what they feel comfortable with. I may for example keep a bottle of opend BBQ sauce for 6 weeks, you may not feel comfortable after 2 weeks. My refrigerator may be colder than yours, anyway lots of things to consider.

Others will be along shortly to give you their ideas. So don't run off! Stay tuned.......

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Old 07-10-2007, 01:20 PM   #4
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A lot of those dates are put on there so the manufacturer can get you to throw it out and buy more. Ketchup, for instance, will last a VERY long time. I am willing to bet the date on your ketchup will pass long before you would ever need to get rid of it.
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Old 07-10-2007, 01:21 PM   #5
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It really depends on the individual product, the temp of your fridge, & the "use by" date, which more & more products are now posting on their labels.

Vinegar-pickled products seem to last forever; brine-pickled items, like certain olives less so. While fresh-made salsa's should be used within 5 days or so, commercial salsa companies claim their products are good for a month after opening - refrigerated, of course. Open cartons of chicken broth should be used or frozen within 14 days of opening. Refrigerated commercial mayonnaise seems to keep quite a while in the fridge, but then I've never had an open jar around long enough for it to go bad. : ) Items like ketchup, barbecue sauce, non-cream-based salad dressings, mustards, etc., can also hold their own for quite a long time. Once opened, I only keep cream-based dressings around for a month at the very most. But again, I usually use them up before time's up.

While I do adhere to the old adage "if in doubt, throw it out", I do take into consideration the product & its ingredients first.
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Old 07-10-2007, 01:32 PM   #6
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The date is a use by date, assuming you bought it from a store that rotates it's stock frequently. The date gives the vendor/store ample time to receive it from the factory/production house, plenty of time to stock it, and plenty of time for you to purchase it. Since most people buy things they are going to initially open fairly soon after purchase, the date then becomes a use by date. Most of these dates are about a year from time of purchase. Even in a closed, unopened container, food will begin to deteriorate.

Having said all that....look at it, smell it, and taste it (in teeny tiny amount) if you have any doubt.
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Old 07-10-2007, 09:02 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by BeachChick
What is the shelf-life of opened items in your refrigerator? For instance, if I open a bottle of barbecue sauce today that has a date of 7/01/08 printed on it, how long is it safe to use once opened? How about ketchup? A jar of pickles? A jar of jelly/jam? Pasta sauce? Salad dressing? Stir-fry sauce? A jar of diced/copped garlic? Mayonnaise?
First off, welcome aboard.

BBQ Sauce: I usually keep 6 months tops, and that's in the winter when I'm not using it.
Ketchup: Doesn't last long enough to go bad here.
Pickles: Indefinitely.
Jelly/Jam: Also indefinitely, but possibly can develop mold.
Pasta Sauce: a week or two would be my guess.
Salad Dressing: Depends on the dressing. If it's got vinegar in it, probably for a month, or longer.
Stir-fry sauce: Could you be more specific? I have a bottle of Oyster Sauce that's going on 6 months old. However, all the salt keeps it good. If it starts to mold, it's gone.
Chopped Garlic: I've never had one spoil on me. The bottle I currently have (1 month old) has Phosphoric acid in it as a preservative.
Mayonaisse: Is made with vinegar. It should last quite a while refrigerated. How long, I don't know.

Look at the ingredients. If vinegar is listed, it should last quite a while. Vinaigrettes, ketchup, mustard, mayo, pickles, etc., all contain vinegar if varying strengths.

I have a large family, with 5 kids. Most stuff gets used before it has a chance to spoil. If you're single, or just a S.O., buy in smaller quantities, like Uncle Bob suggested.
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