Eye on Home Food Safety
There’s no better way to waste food than to let it spoil. But some foods are tricky when it comes to determining their state of “freshness”. Consider the following primer practices on keeping your shelves filled with foods that haven’t gone bad.
Home food safety should become a habit.
Clean out. Remove everything from your pantry and cupboard shelves. Toss any cans showing signs of leaking or bulging (sign of botulism). Toss any packages you’ve opened but haven’t used in the last six months.
Check Dates. Most packaged goods display expiration dates. But it’s important to know just what these dates mean. Sell by date tells the store how long to display the product for sale. Be sure the date on the foods you buy allow enough time to eat before then. “Best if used by” or “use by” date tells you when you should eat (or freeze) the product for best quality.
Note that neither of these dates have anything to do with home food safety. As long as the product hasn’t been opened or mishandled it’s most likely safe to eat. Usually it’s the quality of the food that suffers once the date has passed (less than perfect texture; separation of ingredients).
As soon as a package is opened, all bets are off. Expiration dates no longer apply. Once open, bacteria can enter and spoil food in a matter of days. Typically, you should eat a refrigerated food within 3 to 7 days of opening it. Foods like hard cheeses and condiments last a lot longer.
Rotate Your Stock. Remember FIFO: “First in, First out”. This practice ensures nothing languishes in the back of your cupboards. Organize the foods you have on hand with the oldest in front. Then, when you buy new foods, place them behind the one’s you already have.
Watch Spices. Keep spices away from heat, light and moisture. That means don’t store them near the stove.
Dry Goods. Store dry goods in containers with tight lids to keep out insects. Whole grains and whole-grain flours last longer in sealed plastic bags in the refrigerator or freezer. They’ll go rancid at room temperature.
Olive Oil and Nuts. Keep olive oil and nuts away from light and heat to preserve freshness and quality. Oils can be stored in the refrigerator, but they will thicken and get cloudy. Note: Popular garlic-in-oil combos must be refrigerated to prevent botulism.
Home Food Safety Refrigerator and Freezer Re-Do
Haven’t gone through your fridge or freezer lately? Maybe it’s time for a re-do! The freezer is an equal part of practicing home food safety so let’s get to it.
Toss out months old frozen foods, especially anything that’s freezer-burned, unlabeled or been in the freezer for more than a year.
Test temperatures. Keep an appliance thermometer in the refrigerator. Use it to check the freezer temperature. The refrigerator should be kept at 40 degrees or below, the freezer 0 degrees or below.
Avoid over crowding. Circulating air keeps your fridge and freezer cooler, which means foods stay fresher longer. You don’t want to keep a freezer too empty, either though. Then it has to work harder to chill the empty spaces, upping your energy bill. If not full, put anything – even unopened paper towels – in there to take up space.
Don’t use the fridge door for perishables like milk or eggs. The temperature fluctuates too much. Store eggs in their carton on a shelf.
Read labels and date your food. Always check the fine print on food labels for storage suggestions. Refrigeration is often necessary once a food has been opened. This is a basic home food safety practice. With an indelible marker, jot the date right on the lid or front label when you open items. Later you won’t have to guess how long they’ve been hanging around. Dating leftovers is essential, whether or refrigerated or frozen.
Home Food Safety – Tea and Food Poisoning
The epigallo catechins in tea are considered effective in preventing food poisoning because of their antibacterial and antioxidant capabilities.
The theaflavins in black tea have an antibacterial and antitoxin effect equal to the catechins in green tea. It has been proved that theaflavins are also effective against vibrio cholera.
Theaflavins ensure the freshness of food. If fish is dipped in cold tea before it is cooked, or if tea is sprinkled over the cooked fish, the theaflavins will be effective in halting an increase in bacteria. This prevents food poisoning.