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Food Safety Issues/Turkey safe to eat after use by date?


Hi Carol,

I bought a Trader Joe's prebrined fresh turkey. I thought the use by date was 12/7 but it is 12/1. Today is the 8th. It was kept,sealed and unopened in the coldest part of the fridge. Will it still be safe to eat? I'm cooking it now but want to be sure it's okay to consume.


Hi Cindy,

Unfortunately, the recommendation is to not cook and consume refrigerated poultry products held past their use by date.  If you have frozen the turkey by 12/1 then it would be considered safe to defrost and cook but holding it in the refrigerator past the date is too risky.

Poultry products are especially prone to high bacterial contamination and must be handled carefully even before their best if used by date.  While cooking the bird would destroy any living bacteria, the problem is that some bacteria have the ability to produce a toxic waste product that is not deactivated by heat.  In other words, cooking a bird that has been held past it's recommended use-by date in refrigeration, does not guarantee it's safety.  In addition, you can't tell if toxins are presesnt by sight, smell or taste so you can't use those senses to determine if the bird is safe to consume.

While it is entirely possible that your turkey is still safe to cook and consume, when the best-if-used by date is 6 days over due, the recommendation is to not take a chance in consuming the bird.



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Carol Schlitt


I can answer questions on home food safety, sanitation and home food preservation.


I am a former Extension educator, nutrition, wellness and food safety, having retired August 1, 2010. I am a food safety instructor for the Illinois Department of Public Health, a ServSafe Instructor/Proctor and have my own company, Safe & Savory Solutions, Inc -

National Extension Association of Family and Consumer Sciences (Past President and current Historian), St. Louis Culinary Society.

BS - University of Illinois MS - Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville

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