Category Archives: Food Safety

Ways to Prevent Freezer Burns

Buying food items in bulk is a great way of saving money. Many people prefer to buy in bulk to keep their favorite food items available 24×7. However, bulk food requires special storage arrangements. Most foods require freezing to retain their goodness. Foods stored in a freezer for a long time, are many times seen to develop pale, grayish spots which impart a dull appearance to the food. The food item does not appear fresh and is often thrown away. These grayish spots are termed as “freezer burns”, which not only alter the visual appeal of the food item, but also spoil its natural taste. These either cover the entire surface area of the food or appear at some spots. If the burn has affected a small area, it can be simply cut off, but when it has covered a major chunk, the entire item has to be thrown away. That means, you buy in bulk to save money but end up having losses. So, how can you prevent freezer burns using simple and easy ways? Given below are a few tips to make your job easy.

Tips to Prevent Freezer Burns

The main reason behind such burns is air, and to avoid it, it is important to reduce the air content around the food. This can be done by packing food items tightly so that air does not enter the pack. Also, the air present in the pack must be removed to decrease the risk of these burns.
Having a vacuum sealer at home can definitely help in eliminating the chances of freezer burns as it is capable of completely sucking out air from the storage pack, which can be sealed and stored. Food items packed by this method keep the food intact for around three years, which is really a long time.
Organizing the items stored can help in burn prevention. Food must be stored in such a way that the top part of the freezer and its sides are empty. This space allows air to circulate properly within the freezer and render uniform cooling. Irregular cooling leaves some areas at a higher temperature than others causing thawing and refreezing, ultimately leaving burns on stored food.
Storing food in air-tight containers and plastic containers with zip locks can solve this problem. Aluminum foil can also be used to seal the entry of air though, it is not so effective for long-term storage. If an item has to be stored for a short time span, aluminum foil can be a good sealer.
Keeping food in large portions can speed up the process for burn formation. This is because frequent removal of small portions from the large pack results in thawing and refreezing which has to be avoided. It is therefore better to store food in required portions so that the entire content is not disturbed.
It is quite obvious that some foods are stored near the freezer vent and some distant from it. It is better to consume foods near the vent first and then the ones stored at a distance because they are at higher risk of developing burns due to close proximity to the cooling vent.
Food savers can be used to completely suck out air from the food packages and save food from developing burns. They must be used specially, if a lot of food has to be stored in the freezer.
Double wrapping food is also a good way to store food in cold storage.
Overstocking food can lead to improper air circulation thereby, increasing the chances of freezer burns.
Food stored in a refrigerator’s freezer is more prone to burns due to frequent opening and closing of the fridge door, as it hampers the refrigerator’s ability of maintaining stable temperature within the freezer.
It is good to consume food items within 3-6 months. Anything stored beyond this time frame is likely to have this problem.
Storing food when warm is also a reason behind this problem, therefore, food must be kept in cold storage only after it acquires the room temperature.
Writing the date of storage on food packages can help in identifying the older ones which can be consumed earlier to protect them from spoilage.
Saving meats from burns can be achieved by storing them in special freezer containers, and fruits can be saved by the addition of citric acid, which prevents oxidation and freeze burning.
The freezer temperature must be set as low as possible to maintain a good storage condition.

Freezer burns are mainly caused due to dehydration and oxidation. Water is known to evaporate at all temperatures, and it sublimes from ice to water vapor at freezing temperatures. This loss of water renders the food unfit for consumption. Using these simple tips for storing food can help in preventing food burns to a large extent. A little effort can avoid food spoilage and save a lot of money from being wasted.

Types of Food Packaging

Food products are the items that play an important role and hence are an integral part of our daily life. Food that we consume should be fresh and safe and the packaging used directly affects its safety, freshness and overall shelf life. Food is more susceptible to damage than any other item in the world. Food manufacturers are bound to take utmost care of their products after production until the time they are sold, because even the smallest mistake can lead to a huge financial loss as well as wastage of time and labor. When the food items are produced, the most important thing to be done is its packing. The packing depends on various factors like the type of food item, the process of production, the quality of the food, etc. Since there are different types of food products, there are also different ways of packing them. The following part of the article will throw light on the types of food packaging.

Materials Used for Food Packaging Containers

Plastic, glass, metal, aluminum and cardboard are the common types of materials used for making the packaging containers. We will look at each type of food packaging that makes use of these materials to store food.

Glass
It is used to make glass jars and bottles and is mostly used for storing liquids and sauces. The lid of the jar or the bottle’s cap keep the food product fresh, and the packed food does not require refrigeration before the first opening. These containers are breakable but if handled with proper care, can protect the food for a long time. They are the best refrigerator storage devices for leftover food. Another advantage of a glass jar is that the consumer can see the product inside if the glass is transparent, but sometimes it is invisible because the container is colored dark in order to prevent exposure to light.

Aluminum
We all are aware about the use of aluminum foil for keeping food warm and fresh. The best thing about aluminum containers is that they are inexpensive and made out of recycled materials. But if steel is the main component in aluminum cans, it cannot be easily recycled. Aluminum is also reusable. It can protect beverages like juices, beer and soft drinks for longer periods. It is cheaper and hence convenient to use for packaging large quantities of food.

Plastic
It is one of the most common materials used for packaging and comes in a wide variety of containers, wraps, buckets, bags, etc. Buckets are useful in storing items in bulk like wheat, cereals, sugar, rice, etc. Plastic wrap is a thin film with a sticky tape used to seal containers after putting the product inside it. Plastic food pouches have become very popular nowadays because they are lightweight, small to fit in the pocket and reusable. Plastic bags are also very useful as they increase the shelf life and maintain the freshness of the product. A technology called Modified Atmosphere Conditions (MAP) allows control over atmospheric conditions inside the bag resulting in slower deterioration. Items that are extremely moisture free can be stored in plastic bags for long without adopting the above technology. However, there is a problem with storing food products in plastic containers. These containers or buckets do not have the capacity to stop the entry of oxygen into the container. There is a slow transmission of oxygen through the polyethylene walls into the container. To fix this, you can use oxygen barrier bags made out of plastic or metal to increase the shelf life of the product.

Metal
Metal cans or containers are commonly used to store items like vegetables and fruits as they have an airtight seal and can preserve these items for a considerable amount of time. It is advisable to make use of plastic or metal wraps to seal containers like plastic bags to block oxygen transmission. Metal cans have an inner coating to prevent the food from reacting with the metal and getting contaminated while the heating process is on.

Paper and Cardboard
Tubes and cans are made out of cardboard to store snacks, spices, nuts, etc. These containers are environmentally friendly, as they are made from wood pulp. Dried food products can be stored in them for a long time maintaining its original condition. Paper is also used to make lightweight cartons and bags and sometimes, is used a colorful outer cover for products packed in plastic or metal containers.

Another type of food packaging is clamshell packaging which is also one of the most useful ones. Henceforth, do not let your food products get damaged only because of unawareness or incomplete knowledge about its packaging. Make use of the above food packagings, which you can utilize according to the need of your food product.

What do Food Expiration Dates Really Mean

Okay, so, you’re not the kind who stops in the mid of a supermarket and reads the entire list of ingredients on the carton of a product that you’re about to buy. You’re the kind who’re driven by the name, and the moment you locate the product, you drop it in the shopping basket. I think, I know. Take for example, you prefer Diet Coke over any other drink, an established brand name that it is. Paying a few dollars for that, you go home, take out the coke, and begin to drink, only to realize that it doesn’t smell like Diet Coke at all! What’s the first thing that strikes your mind? Have the Coke guys changed their trademark taste? Nope. Is it Diet Coke that you picked and not anything else? Not at all. That’s when, you read the words in black scribbled over the can, and realize that the Coke you were about to consume was expired. Conked. Perished. Dead.

Ohhhh, is all you say. So, got a fluttering peek of what expiry dates mean? They refer to the quality, which automatically questions the safety of a food product you’re consuming. Canned or packaged food products come with an expiry date, which means it’s unhealthy to consume them after a certain amount of period, considering the fact that not only does the food tend to become stale, the packaging gives way to a number of harmful bacteria inside. The following words make it easy to understand what food expiry dates stand for, and what is the importance of the same. You wouldn’t want to buy a product without checking the expiry date of the same hereafter. Trust me on that.

The Truth About Food Expiry Dates

Food expiry date refers to the date till which the food product inside the package is safe to consume, and that its quality deteriorates after that certain date. These dates are often assigned by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the United States and America, which contribute to providing quality and safety to food products. This means, that if a product carton says that its expiry date is ‘June 30, 2011’, you should trash the product for the sake of yours and your family’s health. Today, almost all packaged food products have in written their Manufacturing Date as well as their Expiry Date. Many others quote the period during which you can consume a particular food product. For example, a Hershey’s Chocolate Bar can be consumed within 1 year from the production date, which means, it’s safe to eat the chocolate bar anytime during the year it was manufactured. However, if you preserve the chocolate bar beyond its expiry date, it may be unhealthy to eat it considering a few ingredients inside it that tend to ruin the flavor and the color. However, chocolate alone does not have a specific expiry period.

From now on, anytime you read words like ‘best used before’, ‘best use by’, ‘MFG DATE’, or ‘EXP DATE’, you know how to bring your brain cells to use, calculate, and grab a product that has the longest expiry date. You know, either you take some efforts to make sure you aren’t picking up an unhealthy product, or you simply avoid the expiration hassle by picking products that don’t have an expiry. However, products such as bread, cheese, milk, juice, and ketchups should never, never be bought without considering the expiry date.

All right, above all, you don’t need to totally rely on the expiry dates of your products, since, many products lose their quality and produce harmful bacteria when stored in unfavorable circumstances. For instance, even if your milk carton says you can drink this milk anytime up to 2 weeks, you can’t leave the carton on your terrace, and forget about it! The general guidelines of storage of milk say that you need to store milk and milk products in a refrigerator so that they don’t get spoiled. Along with checking the expiry dates, ensuring your products are stored safely is an important move you can’t ignore. All in all, the significance of checking the expiry date is only understood well after you’ve had a not-so-good experience with the food you’ve bought. To save yourself from such instances, sniff the food, check all the lingo that’s associated with the term ‘expiry date’ on your food product, and then, shell out your precious dollars.

Storing Fruits and Vegetables

A simple way to stay healthy and control weight is incorporating fresh fruits and vegetables. With this consideration in mind, many of us have the habit of buying too many fresh foods and stacking them. But, the unfortunate part is, they get spoiled and we don’t have another option except to throw them in the garbage bin. The same happens with harvested garden vegetables during the peak season. Hence, knowing a bit on how to preserve fruits and vegetables will go along way in enjoying healthy foods and keeping them fresh for longer days.

How to Store Fruits and Vegetables Properly?

While storing fruits and vegetables, the two main factors that should be taken care of are temperature range and humidity level. But, which one is better, refrigerating them or keeping them on the kitchen countertop? The answer depends on what types of fruits and vegetables you are referring to. Some stay for a longer time in low temperature, thus requiring them to be stored in the refrigerator. On the contrary, other fruits and vegetables do well at room temperature.

Storing in the Refrigerator
Most of the fruits and vegetables can be stored directly in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator (within the temperature range 32-36° F), whereas some of them call for preparatory steps before refrigeration. In case of asparagus, the stalks are wrapped in a damp cotton cloth before cold storage. As for culinary herbs, they are allowed to stand in a glass of water, the top covered with a plastic bag, and then stored in the refrigerator.

Fruits suited for fridge storage: Figs, pomegranate, grapes, apples, mangoes, cranberries, strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, cherries, kiwis, peach, plum, pear and nectarines.

Vegetables suited for fridge storage: Artichoke, lettuce, mushroom, green beans, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, celery, green onions, corn, lettuce, broccoli, peas, radishes, asparagus, leafy greens, beet, carrot, cabbage, leek, spinach and squash.

Storing on Countertop
This storage method is for fruits and vegetables that last long, when kept in the room temperature condition. Like for instance, tomatoes prefer warm temperature and if you happen to keep them in the refrigerator, they lose flavor and become mushy. So, keep them in room temperature, preferably in a plastic basket with the stalk facing upwards. In case of melon fruits, the flesh becomes slightly rubbery after storing in the fridge.

Fruits suited for countertop storage: Melon, orange, grapefruit, lime, lemon, avocado, coconut, banana and apple.

Vegetables suited for countertop storage: Pumpkins, rutabaga, squash, tomatoes, cucumber, eggplant and pepper.

Combine Storage Method
Fruits that are usually bought at the unripe stage are ripened and kept in the fridge. For ripening, they are placed in room temperature condition of the countertop (away from direct sunlight) for 1-2 days. You can consume them at this stage. Or else, extend their shelf life by storing them in the refrigerator. If you are interested in storing rhubarb, wrap it in a plastic bag and consider refrigeration.

Fruits that require ripening: Peach, pear, apricot, nectarine, mango, star fruit, cantaloupe, papaya, persimmon, plantain and avocado.

Keeping in Storage Cellar
Some of the root vegetables can be stored in the roof cellar for several months. They require dry condition, dark environment, cool temperature and ventilation. The storage cellar meets these basic conditions, thus serving as the best area for storing such vegetables. When exposed to warm temperature and light, the root veggies have a high chance of developing sprouts.

Vegetables suited for storing in root cellar: Potato, sweet potato, onion, garlic, ginger, acorn squash, winter squash, spaghetti squash and pumpkin.

Basic Tips for Storing Fruits and Vegetables

While most fresh fruits and vegetables require a moist condition for storage, wet condition causes change in enzyme activity, texture, taste and flavor, resulting in rotting.
To store fruits and vegetables in the refrigerator, fill them in perforated plastic bags and keep them in the drawer.
Whenever possible, keep fruits and vegetables separately. Otherwise, they tend to pick up the flavor of vegetables, which reduce their palatability.
Some fruits can be stored in both cold and room temperature. Let’s take the example of apple, which you can store in the fridge or countertop.
In order to hasten the ripening process of fruits (e.g., avocado), you can use ripe fruits that produce ethylene in higher amounts (e.g., apple). To be precise, keep an apple with avocados in a paper bag for quick ripening.
To avoid over ripening effect, consider storing ripe fruits and vegetables separately from each other. Otherwise, they produce ethylene gas, which adds to food spoilage.
Always keep the root vegetables separate from each other. In other words, do not store onions and potatoes together in the storage cellar. Read more on methods of preserving food.

Whether you have purchased vegetables in stock from the local market or harvest from a garden in bulk, storing them properly is a must to extend their shelf life. As for berries and pineapple, they get spoiled very soon. So, enjoy them as soon as they turn ripe in order to obtain optimal nutrition. For both fruits and veggies, make it a point to consume old items first followed by the recently bought ones.

Chicken and Food Safety

Foodborne illnesses or food poisoning is one of the leading causes of illnesses and even deaths in many parts of the world. Most common cases are caused due to Campylobacter, E. coli, and Salmonella bacteria that are found in birds, cattle, and poultry, respectively. Consumption of uncooked or raw chicken, contaminated by these bacteria, leads to food poisoning and related illnesses. This infection can be serious, and sometimes, even life-threatening if the person is already suffering from a poor state of health or a weakened immune system. Therefore, in order to avoid this, one should follow the food safety measures recommended by the health organizations.

Food Safety Issues With Chicken
You need to buy, store, handle, and cook with extra care to prevent contracting infections. Here are some measures to be followed.

Buying Chicken

Chicken should be cold to touch while purchasing.
When buying grocery, it is always better to buy chicken at the last.
One must check whether the chicken is packed properly, or use disposable bags to avoid contamination of other foods.
When buying ready-to-eat/cooked chicken dish, make sure it is fresh and hot.
It is not recommended to buy a stuffed chicken for later use as it has high chances of getting spoiled.
It is better to buy chicken products of the same (reliable) brand rather than using the trial-and-error methods.

Storing Chicken

Chicken bought from the market should be immediately stored in the refrigerator at 40 degree Fahrenheit or 4 degree Celsius.
It is advisable to check the expiry date of the product and use it within the estimated time.
Cooked chicken should be cut into pieces and stored in clean containers or disposable bags, and frozen at the aforementioned temperature.
It is better to avoid consuming freezer-burned chicken.
Frozen chicken should NEVER be defrosted at the normal room temperature, i.e., directly over the counter.
One should defrost chicken in the refrigerator, by placing it in cold water, or heating it in the microwave.

Cooking Chicken

One should use clean utensils while cooking frozen chicken to prevent the spread of bacteria.
Cook chicken up to the estimated time and or until it is no longer pink inside.
Actually, it is not essential to wash raw chicken. Food safety rules suggest that all the harmful bacteria get killed, in any case, on cooking at a higher temperature.
Chicken should be cooked separately and kept away from other raw foodstuffs or salads.
Frozen chicken should be immediately cooked after defrosting. Especially if it is defrosted in a microwave.
Do not store or freeze partially cooked chicken for later use as it may contain harmful bacteria.
If the chicken is freezer-burned, chop off the affected portions before cooking.
According to food safety rules, chicken, heated or cooked up to 165 degree Fahrenheit or 74 degree Celsius, is safe to consume.
Liquid marinade used for marinating chicken should be boiled before use. Also, it should not be stored and used again later.

Following these food safety measures and tips can help in prevention of infection to a great extent. Lastly, one should also remember to use separate cutlery and utensils for cutting, dressing, and cooking chicken to prevent contamination of other vegetarian or raw foodstuffs. Good luck!

Long Term Food Storage and Safety Guideline

Storing your food not only avoids unnecessary errands to the grocery store, but also keeps you to be equipped with food supply in the time of crisis. But, there are certain factors you should consider while storing food for the long term. Safety is the foremost factor to be considered. The entire purpose of food storage gets defeated, if the stored food turns inedible.

What to Store?

Store only those food which you are most likely to consume. There is no point in storing something you dislike. Wheat, rice, cooking oil, sugar, dry milk, honey etc. are the common ingredients of most recipes. Hence, make sure you always have ample stock of these items.

Follow a rotation method to replenish the stock. Dried fruits packed in metal cans can be stored for long term. If you wish to store packaged or canned foodstuffs, then, be careful while buying them. Ensure there are no dents or other damages. Check the manufacturing date. Soups can be safely stored at a room temperature for 5 years, but acidic foodstuff like tomato soup can last only for 18 months.

Safety Guidelines

To increase the shelf life of food, you should adhere to the food-specific storage practices.

Wheat, rice, grains, seeds, beans, legumes should be stored in large poly containers. You can get 10 gallon poly buckets at a paint shop.
Avoid storing anything in used containers, as they contain molecules of previous food, which may spoil the fresh stock.
Always opt for opaque materials over transparent ones, as light can deteriorate the contents inside.
Place a piece of dry ice or add a few dried bay leaves to protect your grains from insects.
Store the poly buckets in the dry areas of your basement or kitchen closets.
Ensure the lid is airtight.
Foodstuff like meat or dairy products should always be refrigerated.
Frozen food should be chilled at appropriate temperature only.
Never allow thawing and re-freezing of food, as it can accelerate the growth of bacteria.
Cooked food like bread and fruits are stored for a short term only.
Do not consume or store foods that have exceeded their expiry date

Emergency Storage of Food

Emergencies strike without warning. Hence, one must always be prepared for such situations. Always keep an emergency kit of essential foodstuffs ready. This should include dry milk, bread, sugar, butter and other items. Have this kit refilled periodically, so that the contents do not spoil. People living in disaster prone areas should particularly have an emergency kit at hand.

Always store your food in a cool and dry place, irrespective of the food type. If you are likely to face a power cut for long, then consume perishable foods in the refrigerator before going for the ones in the freezer.