can it be eaten even if it has expired?


When you store a food product in the freezer at home, it happens that you don't consume it in time and it expires inside the freezer itself. If it has been placed in the freezer by the expiry date, you must ask yourself whether it is edible or whether it is better to throw it away to avoid risking gastrointestinal consequences. The basic conditions for checking whether an expired frozen food is edible are first of all whether it has been stored correctly in its packaging, and that there have been no sudden changes in temperature, inside the freezer or at the time of purchase and during transport.

  • Frozen food at home: consume within 3 months
  • Industrial frozen food: expiry date on the package, can be consumed even two months after the expiry date
  • Frozen food: very long expiry date, even one year.

Difference between frozen and frozen

  • Freezing: preservation system through “sub-zero cold” (temperatures are between 7°C and -12°C. Freezing is achieved both at an industrial and domestic level when food purchased fresh and not consumed within a period of time is placed in the freezer a few days. When defrosting, there is a partial loss of nutritional and organoleptic values. Freezing does not allow the activity of the enzymes to be blocked 100%, which leads to greater deterioration of the quality of the original food over time.
  • Freezing: the organoleptic and nutritional properties (proteins, vitamins, carbohydrates, etc.), as well as the consistency and flavor of the food, remain unchanged. This process occurs only at an industrial level and is regulated by relevant legislation (DL 27 January 1992, n. 110 – Implementation of Directive 89/108/EEC regarding frozen foods intended for human consumption). The temperature is constantly maintained at -18°C throughout all stages of production, packaging, transportation and retail sale.

The correct wording, when we refer to home freezer storage, is therefore: “freeze meat, fish, vegetables” and do not freeze.

Food in the freezer: when to consume it?

In general, foods frozen at home they should be consumed within three months of their preparation (in this regard it is better to note the reference date on a label to be applied to the bag or container). THE industrially frozen foodshowever, they have an expiry date indicated on the packaging which may arrive up to 18 months from their packaging, while the Frozen foods have even longer shelf life. See the table below with different freezer storage times at different temperatures.

Freezer products, as also specified by the Ministry of Health, are not perishable: next to the expiry date, in fact, you can read the words “best before…” This means that the food in question can be consumed up to a couple of months beyond the date shown on the package, without causing particular gastrointestinal problems, or even more so, being toxic.

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Avoid temperature changes when purchasing

Primary storage rules for freezing food:

  • Don't break the cold chain
  • Do not refreeze thawed raw food
  • Be careful of thermal shock during transport

The cold chain must be continuous to ensure that frozen food is stored safely. Temperature variations during transport and sale of the food can be dangerous in this regard. The nutritional and organoleptic properties of frozen foods, in fact, can deteriorate at the time of purchase due to thermal shock which alters their properties.

This is more likely if the external ambient temperature is particularly high or the time between the purchase and its storage in the freezer causes it to defrost. A clear sign that this has happened are: the paper packaging has become soft and damp, and melted frost on the packaging, or, with a longer time frame, the foods are already soggy.

It is important to go to the supermarket with a thermal bag and put frozen foods in the trolley only at the end of the shopping, and before going to the checkout. The store freezer must also be functioning properly.

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