Thursday, August 9, 2012

Food Storage: The Do’s and Don’ts of Storing Food Safely

Storing food can be a dangerous game if food becomes contaminated and is ingested. Whether you are storing your leftovers overnight, keeping food safe for a week of camping, or storing food for months or years to stay prepared for an emergency, you need to know the basics. Storing food incorrectly can allow harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites, toxins, or other contaminations like mold into your food. If you or a family member is unlucky enough to come down with a case of food poisoning the effects should be temporary, but in some cases can be devastating. Pregnant women, the young and old, and those with chronic illnesses are at the most risk when it comes to getting sick or dying. Let’s explore the basics for storing food for short or long term situations.

Refrigerator and Freezer Basics

Every food you might want to store in the refrigerator or freezer has its own time limit. For example; hamburger or other ground meats can be in the refrigerator 1 – 2 days and 3 – 4 months in the freezer safely. For information on specific types of foods simply look them up online to get an idea about storage times.

The factors you need to keep constant consist mainly of the temperature. The expiration dates on your food assume you are storing them at the correct temperature. The freezer should be kept at 0F (minus 18C) or lower and the refrigerator should be at 40F (5C). Pick up a good thermometer at your grocery store for a few dollars and you can get your exact temperature. If you need to make a temperature adjustment give the appliance 24 hours and then retest.

Outdoor Tips for Food Storage

Summer is in full swing and many of you may like to spend your time outdoors eating. It’s not hard to keep you food safe while barbecuing in the backyard but what do you do when you venture a little farther? A few hours at the park for a picnic or maybe a few days at the campsite can present some food storage planning challenges.

The easy way to remember this rule is that cold food must remain cold (below (40F) and hot food must stay hot (140F) there is no middle ground here. Temperature ranges between 40F and 140F is a dangerous zone where bacteria and other critters can grow. Use freezer ice packs rather than ice cubes because they don’t turn into liquid and stay much drier. Keep the cooler out of the sun whenever possible. Bring a thermometer to place in the cooler so you can remain aware of the internal temperature.

Longer outings like hiking or camping trips may require you to plan a little better about your food choices. Eat all the perishable cold items in the first few days and then spend the other time using canned meats and soups, jerky, peanut butter, bread and dehydrated foods.

Long Term Food Storage

There are lots of things to consider when thinking about starting a long term food storage system. So much so that it is impossible to cover the bulk of concerns here. Let’s address the first issue you should have when it comes to food storage, how long do you want to store your food? Try thinking about long term storage in 72 hours, 3 months, and 1 year increments.
A 72 hour kit should include a 3 day emergency food supply  containing both food and water when no cooking is available. Think emergency! Dried fruit, nuts, jerky, candy and juice are simple and tasty.

The 3 month kit should be made of food you eat regularly. Snacks, treats, cereals, powdered milk, canned fruits and vegetables and any other food items you eat at breakfast, lunch or dinner and include a couple of snacks. There really isn’t a big secret on how to store these types of food. Keep it in a rotation so new food heads to the back of your pantry and the older food items are eaten first.

The 1 year food storage requires lots of planning and effort to accumulate. Remember these tips. Keep a variety of foods for nutrition and to break the mundane of eating the same thing every day. Canned foods can be stored for 2 years in the pantry. A Mylar bag can keep food useable for up to 5 years. Simply add the dry food and an oxygen absorber and remove the air with a pump. Keeping your long term food storage free of invaders requires rotation. 

We are just scratching the surface when it comes to food storage ideas but I hope you have some new ideas to get going on make a change in your storage. Keep your food safe and eat well regardless of your circumstances and don’t forget food for kitty.


Lee Flynn is a freelance writer and expert in emergency food preparedness and food storage.

Thanks Lee for a very informative guest post.

Staying above the water line!



Ragnar said...

Come on, a little common sense please. If ground beef can only be kept safely in refrigerators for 1-2 days, would grocery stores be allowed to put in in their display cases for longer periods (which they do.)? Those dates are for optimum flavor and appearance NOT SAFETY. As to freezing, beef properly packaged, meaning airtight containers, will last almost indefinitely when stored at 0 degrees. Even if improperly stored, all you get is freezer burn and lousy tasting meat.

Botulism is probably the most dangerous food poisoning. How widespread is it? According to the CDC there are an average of 154 cases in the US each year. Of those 24 are food born cases. Food poisoning from salmonela almost always comes from improper handling and improper storage and NEVER from length of storage. Yes, if you store tainted meat in your refrigerator it will get worse over time, but time did not cause the original problem.

You would do much more to prevent food poisoning by regularly cleaning your food preparation area with bleach or other disinfectant than by silly worrying about how many days it has been in the freezer.

When it comes to survival, wrong information is worse than no information.

Cameron Robertson said...

Thanks for sharing these very useful food storage guidelines. Sometimes, we think a food item is safe to consume because with our naked eyes, the food looks good to eat. However, what we are actually unaware of is the internal content that might have been contaminated with virus or molds and fungus inside. Thus, it is very crucial for us to learn the proper and correct food storage methods that will ensure foods remain in safe conditions for human consumption inside and out.

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