Over the last year we’ve all been scared by stories of contaminated food -- e coli in hamburger meat and salmonella in eggs are but two of recent outbreaks across the country. But besides FDA food recalls, when do you know whether it’s safe to eat what’s in the back of the fridge, even if it smells OK? Health editor Janice Kerr and money guru Sheila Conway got together today with some important food tips. -- AP
Thanks, Anastasia! Did you know that the average family of four tosses out over 1400 pounds of food a year? That amounts to about $600 in groceries down the garbage disposal. And yes, if the milk smells sour, or there’s blue fuzzy stuff growing in the cottage cheese, there’s no question as to whether or not you should keep it. However, many families toss out perfectly good food based solely on the date stamped on the package. So here are some tips about those dates.
The “use by” or “best if used by” date is the last day the item is at its highest quality. After that there will be a gradual decline in the taste, appearance, texture, odor, or nutritional value of the food.
The “sell by” date is meant as a notice to stores to remove the item from its shelves after that date. This is because the quality of the product will begin to decline after this date.
Here are some storage lengths for common foods:
MILK: Whether opened or unopened, properly refrigerated milk will last 1 week after the “sell by” date.
COTTAGE CHEESE: 7-10 days if the package is open, 1 week after the date on the package if unopened.
YOGURT: 7-10 days beyond the “sell by” date whether opened or unopened.
SOUR CREAM: 10-14 days beyond the date on package.
RAW BACON: 3-5 days for an opened package, 1 week after “used by” date for an unopened package.
COLD CUTS: 3-5 days for an opened package, 1 week beyond “use by” date for an unopened package.
RAW CHICKEN: 1-2 days.
GROUND BEEF: 1-2 days.
FRESH IN THE SHELL EGGS: 3-5 weeks beyond the “sell by” date.
MAYONNAISE: 3-4 months after opening if refrigerated, 30 days past expiration date for unopened, refrigerated jar.
Cross-contamination and unsanitary conditions are the primary causes of food-related illnesses. To keep food from becoming contaminated, follow these simple rules:
1. Always thoroughly wash your hands before handling food.
2. Store foods at proper temperature.
3. Cook all foods thoroughly and to the proper temperature for each food.
4. Wash all fresh produce.
5. Keep raw foods away from other foods.
Thank you, Janice and Sheila, for looking out for our health and our pocketbooks. -- AP