Expiration Dates on Your Food

Have you ever wondered for how long those left-overs are good in left in the refrigerator or in the freezer? This can be very confusing because different foods have different shelf lives and it does matter if the item is raw, cooked, canned or frozen. Recently in the news there have been lots of food items that have been contained with some serious food borne illnesses like Listeria in ice cream, Botulism at a church potluck or EColi in produce. This has significant community health concerns because most of these products are going all across the country and potentially affecting lots of people. 

The area of food safety is the scientific study of handling, preparing and storing food. The end goal is to prevent food borne illness. This contamination can come from people, animals or microorganisms. Obviously as a consumer you can't control what the manufacturer has done/or not done to keep that food item safe, but you can prevent food borne illnesses once you have brought that food item home. Remember to keep cold foods cold and cook foods to proper temperature when cooking. For more recommendations on safe food preparation check out the USDA Website HERE. 

So you are probably wondering about those dates you find printed on the foods you purchase. What do they mean? Once that dates passes, do you have to toss that item out? 

  • Milk is usually until for a week after the date on the container (which is a use by date). 
  • Eggs are ok for 3-5 weeks after you bring them home (if purchased before the sell by date on the carton). 
  • Poultry and Seafood should be cooked or frozen within 1-2 days after bringing those meat items home. 
  • Beef and Pork should be cooked or frozen within 3-5 days after bringing that meat home. 
  • Canned goods can be kept for >18 months (if they are highly acidic, like tomatoes) or up to 5 years (for low acid foods, like green beans). Remember to keep these canned items stored in a cool, dark place. 

There is a new mobile app that you should download and have on your smart phone to help answer your food safety questions and concerns. It is called Food Keeper and the USDA created this as a tool to help consumers. It tells you how to properly store food/beverages to help maximize their freshness and quality. If is available for Android and Apple devices.