Expiration dates and food safety

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Nobody likes to waste food. I know that many of you use food past the expiration date, its good much longer than this – right? Are you willing to bet your life on it?

Its one thing to go a bit past the expiration date if you are buying at a high-end place like Whole Foods, its an entirely other matter at the discount big box stores where corners are cut to keep prices low. About once a year, I have something go bad before the expiration date even while being properly refrigerated. Here is a particularly dangerous example. This fresh cut salsa went bad, really bad, 4 days before the expiration date.
Look at these two identical un-opened bottles of fresh cut salsa.
The one on the right is ready to explode. It was so bad that I carried it gently outside because I feared it would explode in the house and make a HUGE mess. The bulging sides and lid are a clear sign of botulism or other serious safety issues present in the container. Eating this would cause serious illness and perhaps even death.
So, should you use that food or throw it out? Even if its before the expiration date, check it over carefully: smell it, taste a little. Anything odd is cause for concern. After the expiration date, its your health and your call. If its fresh meat, dairy or produce – its risky. You think DOMS keeps you from having a good workout, try food poisoning!