Food Storage Tips

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Use fresh, perishable foods soon after harvest or purchase. If storage is necessary, it is important to maintain the proper temperature and humidity. Even under proper storage conditions, however, freshness and nutritive value can be lost if foods are stored too long.

Signs of spoilage that make food unpalatable but not a bacterial hazard are the rancid odor and flavor of fats caused by oxidation, slime on the surface of meat, and the fermentation of fruit juices due to yeast growth. Off-odors in foods and a sour taste in bland foods are signals that can indicate dangerous bacterial spoilage. However, food can be high in bacteria count without such signals.

Buy food from reputable dealers, with a known record for safe handling. Select dated products only if the "sell by" or "use by" date has not expired. While these dates are helpful, they are reliable only if the food has been kept at the proper temperature during storage and handling. Although many products bear "sell by" or "use by" dates, product dating is not a federal requirement.

Select products labeled "keep refrigerated" only if they are stored in a refrigerated case and are cold to the touch. Frozen products should be solidly frozen and packaged precooked foods should not be torn or damaged.

Avoid cross-contamination when purchasing foods. Place raw meat and poultry in individual plastic bags to prevent meat from contaminating foods that will be eaten without further cooking. Position raw packages of meat and poultry in your shopping cart so juices cannot drip on other foods.

Shop for perishables last. Keep refrigerated and frozen items together so they will remain cold. Place perishables in the coolest part of your car during the trip home. Pack them in an insulated container with ice or ice pack if the time from store to home refrigerator is more than one hour.
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