For Better Living: Storing Food for Safety and Quality


Sandra Cain - Bladen County Cooperative Extension



Proper food storage helps to preserve the quality and nutritional value of the foods you purchase, and also helps make the most of your food dollar by preventing spoilage. Also, proper food storage can help prevent foodborne illnesses caused by harmful bacteria.

Use fresh, perishable foods soon after they are harvested or purchased. 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 can indicate dangerous bacterial spoilage. However, food can be high in bacteria count even without such signals.

Food Selection

Buy food from reputable producers or retailers, 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, except for infant formula, 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. Packages of precooked foods should not be torn or damaged.

Avoid cross-contamination between potentially hazardous foods and fresh foods like fruits and vegetables. Place raw meat and poultry in individual plastic bags to prevent meat from contaminating foods that will be eaten without further cooking. Put packages of raw meat and poultry in your shopping cart where 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. If the time from store to home refrigerator is more than one hour, pack them in an insulated container with ice or an ice pack.

Food Storage

To retain quality and nutritive value, stock only the kinds and amounts of food you can store properly. Proper storage means maintaining a clean refrigerator and freezer. Avoid overcrowding the refrigerator. Arrange items so cold air can circulate freely. To reduce dehydration and quality loss, use freezer wrap, freezer-quality plastic bags, or aluminum foil over commercial wrap on meat and poultry that will be stored in the freezer for more than two months.

Tips to remember:

Place perishables in the coolest part of your car during the trip home. If the time from store to home refrigerator will be more than one hour, plan ahead and pack an insulated container with ice or an ice pack.

Place raw meat and poultry in individual plastic bags to prevent meat from contaminating foods that will be eaten without further cooking.

Use a thermometer to check that the refrigerator is between 35 and 40 degrees F and the freezer at 0 F degrees or below. These temperatures are important in that they prevent the growth of bacteria and keep your food from spoiling.

Source: Colorado Cooperative Extension

Crunchy Apple Pecan Slaw

5 cups shredded cabbage

2 sweet apples, diced

½ cup coarsely chopped pecans, toasted

½ cup golden raisins

3 green onions, chopped

½ cup reduced-fat mayonnaise

½ cup 1% buttermilk

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon honey

¼ – ½ teaspoon pepper

In a large bowl, toss the cabbage, apples, pecans, raisins, and onions. In a small bowl, whisk the remaining ingredients. Pour over cabbage mixture and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Yield: 10 servings

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Sandra Cain

Bladen County Cooperative Extension

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