Saturday, October 10, 2009

What’s growing in your fridge?

Are you growing mould in your fridge? Is it dangerous? Do you hate wasting food but some of it doesn’t look or smell good?

When I visit friends, I feel like dumping half the contents of their fridge in the garbage. Maybe you need to revise a few storage rules. You will need just 15 minutes to make your fridge more organized and safe.

* Open your fridge.
* Take out everything and wipe down surfaces.
* Check the inside temperature is below 4oC.
* Throw out any food you can’t recognize, smells bad or looks nasty.
* Put back the following foods:
1. Milk, if it smells okay. When milk smells off it is way past it’s “sold by” date. This is when harmless organisms, called pyschrophiles, multiply, attack proteins and fats, cause off-flavors and shorten shelf life. Milk, unopened can be kept for 30 days, once opened use within 7 days.
2. Eggs last 3 weeks, hard cooked, 1 week. Keep eggs refrigerated and cook eggs until yolks are firm.
3. Meat when ground or in cubes, sausages, leftover gravy and meat broth and organs can be kept for 1 - 2 days; steak, chops, roasts, canned, opened or cooked ham, cold cuts, leftover meat, chicken or turkey dishes 3 - 5 days; opened hot dogs, bacon, smoked sausages and patties 1 week.
4. Thaw or store meats on a lower shelf of your refrigerator. You don’t need the juices dripping onto other foods.
5. If you prepare meat, poultry or fish the day before your meal, divide it into small portions. Then refrigerate in loosely covered shallow containers within 2 hours of cooking -- limit depth of meat, etc. to about 2 inches. Cover tightly when cooled.
6. Vegetables. Their duration in your fridge depends on their surface area; the more area, the quicker deterioration. Carrots last 2 weeks, lettuce 5 days and mushrooms 2 days. If they look a little wilted, throw in a soup or throw out. 7. Cooked vegetables last 3 - 4 days.
8. Cooked rice in a sealed container lasts 7 days.
9. Commercial mayonnaise and salad dressings that have been opened and look and smell good. These sauces are too acidic for pathogenic bacteria to survive. Eat within 2 months.
10. Look at the “Sell-by dates”: For perishable food, eat within 7 days of the sell-by date; for beef or pork, 3 - 5 days and with ground meat, within 2 days. If you cannot remember when you bought it, throw it out.

Many people rely on looks, smell and taste to detect food spoilage, but it’s important to keep in mind that food may spoil long before these signs appear.

With your next meal, use the foods that are close to throwing out. For safety and quality, reheat foods only once. Then either eat or toss.

You can get more information from the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) guidelines at http://www.fsis.usda.gov .


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