The Viral TikToker That's Combating Food Waste By Eating Expired Food

Although nearly every food product we purchase has some sort of date on it, the messy truth about expiration dates is that they're really all over the place. Per WebMD, some foods have a sell-by date, use-by date, best-if-used-by date, or quality assurance date, after which your food could still be safe to eat, albeit less appetizing. Other foods have an expiration or do-not-use-after date, which signals they may be less effective after a given date.

As you might expect with such a confusing system, many products get thrown out even if they're still technically safe to eat – about 4 million tons per year. TikToker Gavin Wren, however, has made it his mission to show the world which food dates we should heed, and which we can take with a grain of salt.

For instance, in one of Wren's videos, he gave an update on a block of cheese that many of us would have tossed in the trash without a second thought. According to his TikTok, the cheese was 126 days past its best-by date, but "if the food looks and smells okay, then it's still alright to eat." Though he noted that the cheese had dried out a little, Wren deemed the cheese safe to eat.

Guidelines for eating expired food

With so many different dates and labels to consider, you may be wondering which foods are still safe to eat after a stamped date. As Gavin Wren pointed out in his TikTok about cheese's best-by-date, many labels have more to do with quality than safety. Wren clarified in his video, "It has a best-before date as opposed to a use-by date. And a best-before date means if the food looks and smells okay, it's still alright to eat in general."


Replying to @Food Made Simple #cheesechallenge #gavinwren #foodwaste

♬ original sound – Gavin Wren

Per the U.S. Department of Agriculture, many foods are indeed still safe for consumption after the given date, even if their quality has started to decline. Certain pasta, canned goods, and rice, for example, can last for up to a year to a couple of years before spoiling or going stale. Similarly, while their quality may suffer, frozen foods are also safe for several months depending on the item. However, it's important to proceed with caution and do a quick search for the grocery item in question. 

As for that block of cheese, Wren is keeping hostage in his fridge? One cheese expert noted in an interview with Thrillist that hard cheeses can be kept for up to six months in the fridge. (Soft cheeses should be disposed of). It's also important to store your food properly as Wren demonstrated with two different pieces of cheese. You can eat expired hard cheese safely so long as you store it the right way and keep your senses peeled for changes in smell or appearance.