How in tune are you with the topic of your food safety?
First, it’s important to start with this statistic: Domestic food waste is now the biggest contributor to the global food waste problem. Supermarkets have suffered the brunt of bad publicity, being blamed for massive quantities of unsold food being wasted. But we still play a huge role in this and need to take a lesson in the old adage Waste Not, Want Not.
So how to be responsible and safe with the food that you purchase?
Different types of foods have different guidelines when it comes to keeping your food safe for you and your family, but here are the most important basic rules to keep you healthy when it comes to your food.
The Dating Definitions – what the dates on the package really mean
Sell by date a date on some packages there for the grocer to make sure food is fresh and being rotated frequently enough for sales and for the safety of the customer. If the date has passed, don’t buy it.
Best by date a date that guarantees the food will have the nutrients, appearance, flavor and texture intended for that item as ‘fresh’. The food is often still fine (safe) to eat some period of time beyond the best by date, but the nutrition and other qualities of flavor, taste or texture may be diminished. Best by is the last day that the peak quality and freshness can be assured by the manufacturer (not just that it’s safe but has the nutrients, flavor, texture, color and other characteristics as intended). Consider throwing food out once the best by date has passed.
Use by dates is kind of an expiration date. After the use-by date, the safety of eating the food goes down. Throw it out after this day.
How long does it last?
- 40-140 4 hours. KNOW THIS! Food, especially foods of animal origin, should not be eaten if they have been out for more than 4 hours at a temperature between 40 (refrigerator) and 140 degrees (not hot enough to kill or stop bacterial growth) Fahrenheit. Bacteria love this “danger zone” where they thrive and multiply.
E.g. meat, turkey, fish, tuna salad, egg salad, mayo, eggs, cheese. Hardboiled eggs (in the shell) actually should not be out in the ‘danger zone’ for more than 2 hours.
- Label all your foods in the kitchen clearly. Label everything with dates. Get that sharpie pen out and label perishable foods once you get them home and any packaged foods as soon as you open them. While you’re at it, circle the best by, sell by, or use by (expiration) date for easy reference.
- Storing foods in the right way can extend shelf-life, too. Keep your foods in safe storage by maintaining fridge temps that are maintained at 37 to just below 40. Freezer temps below 32 degrees, pantry items below 75 degrees, low humidity, bags and boxes kept sealed (airtight) to limit the air-contact that stales crackers, cereal and breads. And keep food away from other household items like household cleaners and chemicals, paper goods, and other supplies.
- If it bulges, toss it. This goes for canned foods, ‘fresh’ juices in plastic containers and even milk in plastic gallons.
- When in doubt, throw it out!!! If you don’t know, don’t risk it.