Tag Archives: expiration dates

Holiday Food Safety Tips

Holiday Food Safety Tips

Are you cooking for a crowd this holiday season? In honor of Food Service Safety Month, we can help you protect your guests with these helpful holiday food safety tips.

Keep hot food hot and cold food cold while serving guests with things like slow cookers and ice trays.

Put leftovers away after eating. Toss perishable foods that are left out for more than 2 hours.

Putting Away Leftovers

 

Make sure you’re cleaning produce properly before you start cooking.

Cleaning Before Cooking in the Holiday Season

Cleaning Before Eating

 

Do you know how to cook safely, like avoiding cross-contamination? Brush up for holiday meals.

Safe Holiday Food Prep

Preparing Your Food Safely

 

Cooking meats to the right internal temperature could be the difference between a happy holiday and a disaster.

Cooking Thoroughly During the Holiday Season

Hot Enough

 

Fight food waste in your leftovers this holiday season by storing food properly, using your freezer, and more.

Making the Most of Holiday Leftovers

Fight Food Waste

 

How long are all those leftovers and special ingredients good for? We can help.

When to Eat and When to Toss Holiday Leftovers

Decoding Expiration Dates

Fighting Food Waste in Your LIfe

Fight Food Waste

Have you ever bought a bunch of groceries, only to have plans change and food go to waste? Fresh fruits and veggies that go bad in your fridge before you make that recipe or snack on them? Leftovers that you got sick of without finishing?

This is a problem millions of Americans run into every day, and it’s called food waste.

Food Waste by the Numbers

Right now, the world produces more than enough food to feed everyone, 17% more per person than it did in the early 1960s. And yet, in 2015, 42.2 million Americans faced hunger and trouble affording food.

An estimated 25 to 40% of food in the U.S. goes to waste instead of being eaten. And when food goes into a landfill, it also produces a greenhouse gas that’s bad for the environment. All those lost groceries add up to about $165 billion lost every year.

Reducing your food waste can help you save money, and it’s good for the rest of the world. And the great news is it’s easy.

Shop Smart

  1. Prepare to shop. Have a plan and buy exactly what you need to at the grocery store .
  2. Make smart decisions at the store. Don’t stock up on a sale item if you know you can’t use it before it goes bad.
  3. Know yourself. Pay attention to how much of something your family really eats so you can buy the right amount. If you live alone, don’t buy fruit in bulk (unless you really love apples). If you hate cooking, don’t stock up on things that have to be cooked.
  4. Buy the odd-looking fruits and veggies. Many are thrown away because their size, shape, or color doesn’t look perfect, but they’re actually just as good.

Save at Home

  1. First In, First Out. When you unpack your groceries, make sure you’re putting the newest food in the back so older things get used first.
  2. Store food in the right place. Many foods will last longer if you know how to store them.
  3. Pay attention to what you toss. If you keep throwing away half of the spaghetti sauce you make, try freezing half of it or cutting the recipe in half.
  4. Think about expiration dates. Make sure you know how they work, and try to make meals that let you use up things that are closer to expiring.
  5. Use all of an ingredient. Whenever possible, use all of what you’re cooking with, like leaving the skin on potatoes. Use citrus rinds and zest to add flavor to sauces and desserts. And the skin and stems of most fruits and veggies are safe to eat and have extra nutrients that you need.
  6. Use your freezer. Freeze fruits and veggies you can’t use up before they go bad for easy smoothies. Store extras from recipes.
  7. Eat leftovers. Take them for lunch, skip cooking the next night, or freeze them for an easy dinner later.
  8. Share. Split a huge dish when you’re eating out or take home the leftovers for an easy meal later. If you made too much of a meal, bring a dish of it to family or friends.

A little thought can go a long way toward helping you reduce food waste in your home and save you money.

Up Next:

Prepare your food safely and make sure you’re cooking your food safely to protect your family and prevent illness.

Serving Health for National Food Safety Education Month

National Food Safety Education Month

September is National Food Safety Education Month. And this year’s theme is about restaurants. If you own or work in one, use these activities for a refresher.

Do you know how best to store your food and keep it fresh? We can help.

Some things you should wash as soon as you bring them home. Others should wait until before you eat them. Learn how to clean your produce.

Do you really know what organic produce can give you? We can help.

Safe food prep is key to healthy cooking at home. Make sure you’re doing it right.

Do you know expiration dates aren’t standard? We can help you make sense of them.

Food poisoning is serious, and nothing kills foodborne illness like heat. Make sure you’re safe.

Food Expiration Dates and Safety

Decoding Expiration Dates

Did you know the government doesn’t make food companies put expiration dates on most things? They choose to put those dates on their products so that you get the best quality as a customer, which is why there are so many different kinds of labels.

According to the Boston Globe, 3/4 of Americans think eating things after their printed dates is unsafe. That’s not always true.

What Do the Expiration Dates Mean?

“Sell by” Date

This tells the store how long it can sell the product. You should buy it before this day, but it doesn’t mean that it’s bad after that date. It really just means that it’s freshest before that date.

“Best if used by (or before)” Date

You should use a product before this date for the best quality and flavor, but it has nothing to do with safety.

“Guaranteed fresh” Date

This is usually used for bakery items. You can still eat them after this date, but they won’t be at their freshest.

“Use by” Date

This is the last date a product’s maker recommends you use it for the best quality, much like “best if used by or before” dates.

“Pack” Date

These are dates that are on many canned or packaged goods. They’re used by the manufacturer and do not tell you if the food is safe. They may also be in a code, usually month-day-year, like MMDDYY. So September 29, 2015, would be 092915.

Other Dates

Federal law says that all baby formula must be dated. It is usually marked with a “use by” or “expiration date,” and after that date, the nutrition of the formula begins to decline from what’s shown on the label.

Some states also make stores pull dairy items off the shelves after their expiration dates.

How Long Are Things Good For?

While these dates will help you eat things while they taste the best, you won’t need to rush to throw most things away by those dates.

You should always try to buy your food before these dates expire, but as long as it’s stored at the right temperature and hasn’t been contaminated during cleaning or prep, it can be good after the dates.

Product Dates and Expiration

And of course, it is important to smell and look at your food before you eat it if it’s past those dates (and before them, too). If something smells bad, tastes weird, has rotten spots, or is moldy, don’t eat it! It’s definitely time to throw it away.

You can see more info about dates and food safety from WebMD and the USDA.

Up Next:

Make sure you’re storing your food safely to keep it good for longer.

Are you always cooking things to a safe temperature to avoid foodborne illness? Our guide can help!

Save

Checking Expiration Dates

Long View: Food Safety – What’s in a Date?

I was hunting for some cookies at my mom’s house, and I noticed a bottle of Tabasco® sauce in the back corner of the pantry. I wondered why she had a new bottle of something she rarely uses, and she told me she just keeps it around and had moved it from her house on Church Street.

“Gee, Mom, that was 12 years ago,” I said, and it got me thinking about expiration dates and what they mean.

I hope during this holiday season and all year long, Health Alliance Medicare members and non-members alike, pay attention to this wise advice from the experts. The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines the most common terms this way.

• A “sell-by” date tells the store how long to display the product for sale. You should buy the product before this date.
• A “best if used by (or before)” date is recommended for best flavor or quality. It is not a purchase or safety date.
• A “use-by” date is the last date recommended for the use of the product while at peak quality. The maker of the product determines this date.
• “Closed or coded dates” are packing numbers for use by the manufacturer.

Who knew?

Another good food safety resource is your local University of Illinois Extension office. Jenna Smith is the nutrition and wellness educator for Livingston, McLean and Woodford counties. She has a safety-first approach.

“Dates on food packaging can be very confusing,” Smith says. “But in general, most dates refer to best quality, not to food safety. When in doubt, throw it out. If the food develops an off odor, flavor or appearance, do not use it.”

As a former holder of a Food Service and Sanitation Certificate, I tend to take a very conservative approach when it comes to food safety. I especially remember some videos on the proper methods for handling raw chicken and the consequences of not maintaining the proper temperature. I didn’t eat poultry for two years.

Paying attention to safe food practices and being well informed are the best ways to be safe. I think my mom’s Tabasco sauce has transformed from a condiment to a treasured family heirloom along the way. I am OK with it for now, as long as I’m not eating it.

Happy Holidays from all of us at Health Alliance!