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A day in the car or a week in the fridge

January 13, 2006

We’ve all wondered at one point in time, “Is this leftover food safe to eat?” Through scientific analysis and personal practice, I have prepared a simple guideline for the life expectancy of leftovers…A day in the car or a week in the fridge. Despite the non-believers, this holds true for an extremely high percentage of leftovers. A slightly warm car on a spring day is not going to produce malaria on your quarter pounder. A little bit of bacteria isn’t going to kill you anyway, provided you aren’t going into this with a sustained illness. Besides, cows stand around all day in the sun and they don’t rot…and most cheese is aged before you even buy it!

Unreasonable amounts of perfectly good food get wrongfully disposed of every day due to the misinformed. I’m not pleading this from an environmental standpoint, but because I believe that everyone should eat as much food as they possibly can. Throwing good food away goes against this belief. Would an Ethiopian throw out a hamburger after it sat in a hot car for a few hours? Unfortunately, Ethiopians don’t have cars, so we’ll never know the answer, but my guess is that they wouldn’t. The average American would. If you are really that much of a germaphobe, then don’t forget to wash your hands after touching the keyboard and mouse that you are currently web browsing with. Oh, and don’t use doorknobs anymore, as they have way more bacteria than your leftovers do.

Standardization is key. Any good marketing major is going to tell you that can you can’t always set an exact price for every special case…it’s futile. The important thing is to develop an easy to understand plan that covers the usual instances. The U.S. Post Office did this when they decided that a single stamp rate would cover the cost of delivering a basic letter anywhere in the country, instead of developing a convoluted system based on destination. Food falls under the same complications. You can’t analyze your sandwich and give it a content-based expiration date. It’s just too complicated, and complications lead to mistakes. Stick with a simple plan, and you will be fine. I don’t recommend eating something that looks or tastes nasty, but if it is still appetizing, then by all means indulge.

I know this theory seems too good to be true, but there is a catch. Just like how “neighbor” and “weigh” come along and screw up the whole “i before e, except after c” policy, there are two exceptions to this rule worth noting. These sneaky little bacteria smugglers are milk and bacon. Don’t ever mess with milk or bacon after their expiration date. Other than that, regular ingestion of small amounts of bacteria will gradually strengthen your immune system and eventually make you resistant to all forms of disease, so that you have the potential to take over the world if you ever decide to go that route.

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