When to keep and when to toss leftovers

Have you ever pulled something out of the refrigerator, wondered if it was still okay to eat, and then tossed it out just to be safe. You are not alone—billions of pounds of food go to waste in the U.S. every year because consumers are unsure of the food’s safety. Also, how much money is wasted when you toss it out and don’t get to eat it? Knowing how to safely store and when to toss it can help prevent food-related illnesses that are all too common in the U.S. The centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports about 48 million Americans get sick every year from something they eat, resulting in thousands of hospitalizations and even some deaths. Georgia Ginnopoulos, RD, CDN, a senior dietician with New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell says there are lots of misconceptions about food safety. For example, most people tend to worry more about meat than fruits and vegetables when it comes to food-related illnesses. Research shows that seafood and produce are the two leading causes of food-borne illnesses. Studies show that most people believe you can tell if food is safe by its appearance or smell, but pathogens such as E. coli and Salmonella don’t change the look of food, and often don’t affect its smell. The date on most food labels should serve as a guideline, but they are not a hard-and –fast rule; many foods especially those that don’t require refrigeration, still may be safe to eat after those dates. Here is a guide to what those dates mean, according to the USDA. Sell-by: Tells the store how long to display the product. You should always buy items prior to the “sell by” date on the label. Best if used by or before: This is not a safety date, but a reference to the date at which the food is at its peak of flavor and /or quality. Use-by: This date is established by the manufacturer as the date recommended for use of the product at its peak quality. For fresh or uncooked items, use-by dates should be followed closely, unless an item is frozen. Frozen foods can be consumed safely long after their use-by or sell-by dates. The USDA recommends the following guidelines for the safe, refrigerated (not frozen) storage and consumption of foods after their sell-by dates:

  • Poultry: one or two days
  • Beef and pork: three to five days
  • Ground meat or poultry: one or two days
  • Eggs: three to five weeks
  • Pastry and cream pies: three to four days
  • Fruit pies: one week
  • Rolls and buns: seven to fourteen days
  • Dairy products: Cream cheese – fourteen days

Sour cream – seven to twenty-one days Yogurt – seven to fourteen days

  • Fresh fruit: Blackberries, Raspberries and Strawberries – three to six days

Blueberries – ten days Apples –four to six weeks

  • Fresh vegetables: Bagged greens , Spinach and Lettuce –three to five days

Cauliflower – three to five days Cabbage – one to two weeks Eggplant – four to seven days Okra – two to three days Summer squash –four to five days

  • Seafood: Cooked fish – three to four days, if refrigerated

Salmon and tuna – four to six days, if refrigerated To minimize your risk of food-borne illness you can do the following: Store perishable fruit and vegetables in the refrigerator at 40 degrees F or below. Refrigerate perishable food within two hours, or within one hour when its’ over 90 degrees F. outside. Eat leftovers within three days unless they are frozen. Get more information about food safety online at www.foodsafety.gov and www.cdc.aagov/food-safety or call 1-800-CDC-INFO. There is also an app, called Food Keeper that you can download to your smart phone or other mobile device. You can purchase a Food Keeper brochure for $1 from the Food Marketing Institute; visit http:// bit.ly/1FPrutF, or call (202) 452-8444. Food Keeper offers specific information on hundreds of food items, including storage tips, and timelines for the refrigerator, freezer and pantry. It even includes everything from shopping tips to cooking guidelines in an easy-to-read format. Submitted by Joan Morton for the Coffee County Farm Bureau Women

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