PhotoEvery year, Americans waste enormous quantities of perfectly good food (worth $115 billion annually, according to USDA estimates) due to the false belief that as soon as a canned or dried product reaches its “expiration” or “best by” date, it's immediately gone bad and must be discarded.

Even organizations whose primary focus is on keeping bad and gone-bad food out of people's diets have started noticing the issue of food waste caused by erroneous fear of bad food; last August two safety inspectors writing on the USDA blog published an article explaining how to tell when certain “out of date” foods were still safe to eat.

So packaged foods don't necessarily go bad as soon as they hit their best-by date — but that doesn't mean they never go bad. A family in Italy discovered this the hard way, when they had to be hospitalized after drinking hot chocolate made from 25-year-old mix.

The offers an English translation of an Italian-language news article which first appeared in Corriere del Veneto (Venetian Courier): an unidentified woman from Vicenza made hot chocolate for her son and two grandchildren (aged 8 and 12), and also had a cup herself. But the cocoa packets had expired in 1990, and the entire family, along with the woman's partner, ended up in the emergency room.

Although it was an accident, and the grandmother drank some of the chocolate herself, Corriere del Veneto says that she has been charged with causing injury.

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