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News Room: ENQUIRER: How to figure out if food is safe

To download a pdf of this article, please click here.

By: Toni Schklar

‘Definitions’ for determining freshness.

Make sure foods you consume are fresh to be certain they are safe for consumption and that you are getting optimal nutritional value.

Many of us have used the “sniff test” and the “looks-like-a-science-experiment” criteria for determining whether to keep or pitch food items. However, there are more accurate methods for determining food safety and nutritional quality.

According to the FDA, Department of Agriculture, there is a “voluntary” system of labeling terminology to guide consumers. Here are some terms that are helpful to know:

Expiration date: the last date food should be eaten or used.

Sell by date: tells the store how long to display the product for sale. This is the last day the item is at its highest level of quality, but it will still be edible for some time after the date.

Best if used by (or before) date: This date is recommended for best flavor or quality.

Guaranteed fresh date: Usually refers to bakery items at peak freshness. The items are still edible after the date; just not as fresh.

Use by date: the last date recommended for use of the product while at peak quality. The date is determined by the manufacturer.

Basic rules
  • Milk: Usually fine until a week after the “Sell By” date. This is where the “sniff test” comes in handy.
  • Eggs: If bought by the “sell by” date, usually good for 3-5 weeks after you bring them home.
  • Canned goods: High acidic foods (ex. tomato sauce) can keep 18 months or more. Low-acid foods (ex. green beans) can be kept up to five years. Keep canned and dry food at 50-70 degrees Fahrenheit in a dry, dark place. Any bulging can should be discarded regardless of the expiration date (indicates bacteria growth and is unsafe for eating).
  • Poultry and seafood: Cook or freeze within 1-2 days (refrigerate until use or freezing).
  • Beef and pork: Cook or freeze within 3-5 days (refrigerate until use or freezing).

A good idea
Write your own date of purchase on all items so that you know how long they’ve been on your shelf or in your refrigerator. For additional information go to:

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