Use by date?
    By Robert H Olley | February 4th 2012 01:42 PM | 3 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
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    Until recently, I worked in the Polymer Physics Group of the Physics Department at the University of Reading.

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    In the USA, it is, I understand, a great insult to call a member of the fair sex a “Tub of Lard”.  So folks from across the Pond may do a slight double-take when they read 

    Tub of lard found fit to eat after 64 years

    Millions of tins of “Swift’s Bland Lard” –which was used as a spread similar to butter or as a cooking fat – were distributed by US soldiers to West Germans after World War II in care packages that included other essentials like powdered milk, cheese and sugar.

    Some of those made their way across the Iron Curtain, including one to Hans Feldmeier, a pharmacist from the Baltic Sea town of Warnemünde who never opened the can.  Worried that it had long passed its expiration date, the 87-year-old recently decided to turn it over to the state for a comprehensive inspection.

    The response was surprisingly positive.

    “Overall, the product has a degree of freshness and material composition necessary to be assessed to be satisfactory after 64 years,” according to the State Office for Agricultural, Fisheries and Food Security, although it could not compete with the quality of a fresh sample. Still, it appeared to be fit for human consumption, they said.

    Feldmeier promptly asked for his tin of lard back, calling it “beautiful” and saying he couldn’t imagine parting with it.  So the authorities sent it back to him – empty.

    In view of this – should one not be so concerned about use-by dates marked on produce?

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    Many use-by dates, especially on drugs, are mere tools to sell more soon and perhaps partially legal insurance. I have some drugs here (60mg pseudo-ephedrine nasal decongestant tablets, trazodone, VC, aspirin, oxymethazolineHC, ...), some are 20 years beyond the use-by date, and I still use them. I do not see what bad could possibly happen to those simple molecules packed in benign fillers even over 500 years.
    With a 64 year old metal can produced just after the war, I would be worried about heavy metals that may have entered the product, but perhaps even this is uncalled for.


    Many use-by dates, especially on drugs, are mere tools to sell more soon and perhaps partially legal insurance.

    Probably true. For instance what could happen to aspirin? Well the acetyl group can turn to acetic acid, but if the tablets have no faint odor of vinegar, they're probably still good, regardless of the expiry date.

    Evidence? From
    Most of what is known about drug expiration dates comes from a study conducted by the Food and Drug Administration at the request of the military. With a large and expensive stockpile of drugs, the military faced tossing out and replacing its drugs every few years. What they found from the study is 90% of more than 100 drugs, both prescription and over-the-counter, were perfectly good to use even 15 years after the expiration date.
    The exceptions include nitroglycerin, insulin, and liquid antibiotics.

    What is just as likely to be true is that chemicals in high school laboratories are often needlessly discarded, or worse, let go at a cost for no reason. But many salts, for instance, have very long shelf lives. I know a smart technician who works outside of our school board. She hides chemicals that have passed her tests so that they are not taken away,relabeled and resold.
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    I once read a newspaper article in which a woman's healthy young labrador dog died after she washed it in insecticide dog shampoo which was past its use by date. I remember the article said something about the insecticide increasing in toxicity over time and the manufacturers accepted no liability because of this. I read this about 10 years ago I think but I've Googled and can't find the article anywhere. I did find this article though, which lists the dangers of the pyrethins usually found in these dog insecticide shampoos. Doesn't look like these dangers have been very well scientifically tested for something we use so freely.
    According to the National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC), pyrethrins are ones of the lease poisonous insecticides to mammals. Despite their low toxicity, rats exposed to pyrethrins experience rapid or difficulty breathing, lack of coordination, aggression and sensitivity to external stimuli.human exposure can produce symptoms including coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, nasal congestion, chest pain and difficulty breathing. Contact with the skin can cause irritated skin, itching and blistering.
    To date, scientists have little to no data on human work-related or accidental exposure cases that indicate whether pyrethrins cause cancer in humans. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) has reported that pyrethrins generally show carcinogenic effects in animals when animals have consumed large quantities of the insecticide over an extended period of time. The true carcinogenic impact of pyrethrins on animals and humans is still subject to continued testing and research.
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at