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  • From Purchase to Storage, Tips on Extending Shelf Life

    Grocery ShoppingThe average American wastes more than 200 pounds of food a year, says the Consumer Reports ShopSmart magazine.  The Vegetarian Times website says, “Americans throw out 25% of the produce we buy because it’s gone bad.” What a pity! Ever wish you had a magic wand that could keep your food purchases safe and tasty until you’ve consumed the very last morsel or drop? It would be nice, but you don’t really need that wand.  If you select foods carefully, get your perishables home and refrigerated promptly, and wrap and store foods appropriately, you can extend the shelf life of your food purchases and thereby cut down on grocery shopping trips and food bills.

  • Should Hot Food Go into the Fridge?

    Hot FoodCooking for a crowd?  Then chances are, you’re planning to prepare some hot dishes a day or two in advance.  Then, you may ask yourself, can my casserole go right from the oven into the fridge, or is that a bad idea?  This quandary actually poses 3 questions: 

     

    1) Will hot food damage my refrigerator?

     

    2) Will adding hot food harm my already refrigerated food? 

     

    3) Will immediate refrigeration be bad for the hot food?  We asked two members of our Advisory Board, Dr. Timothy Bowser, a food process engineer, and Dr. Karin Allen, a food scientist, to provide the answers.

  • How long can I keep refrigerated leftovers?

    Leftover Food scientist Susan Brewer offers the following advice: the amount of time which leftovers are safe and/or of good quality depends on the leftovers.

     

    Mixed dishes which contain (cooked) animal products (such as meat, milk, and eggs) tend to have the shortest shelf life both for quality and safety reasons. They may have originally had pathogenic bacteria associated with them. If cooking didn’t kill every single one, the bacteria can grow (slowly), making the product unsafe. Three days is the standard length of time recommended for these products.

  • Ethylene and Produce: Friends or Foes?

    applesBuying a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables these days?  Then it's well worth knowing something about ethylene. "What's ethylene?" some may ask.  It's a plant hormone that fruits and vegetables produce naturally as they ripen.  Reducing exposure to ethylene slows the natural ripening, thereby extending produce shelf life.  The problem is that, like many gases, it's sneaky--invisible and odorless.  Nevertheless, you can infer its presence and control it to some extent.

  • “Myth-information” about Food Safety: You’d Better Not Believe It

    Food PyramidOne dictionary definition of a myth is a widely held belief that has not been proved.  However, as used today, the word usually refers to an idea that’s widespread but wrong. When the myth is about safe ways to handle food, it can also be unsafe.  The following myths were excerpted from an article created by Alaska’s Food Safety and Sanitation Program. The explanations debunking these myths can eradicate misconceptions you may have and help you operate your kitchen based upon scientific facts rather than fiction.

  • What is the best way to clean fruits and vegetables?

    All fruits and vegetables should be washed well with water. A scrub brush should also be used on for hard-skinned fruits (for example, apples and cantaloupe) and vegetables with irregular skins (such as squash and potatoes) Following these procedures will get them as clean as commercial washes.

  • Everything You Need to Know about Wrapping Food Right

    food storage Why wrap food? That’s easy to answer. We do it to prevent oxidation (interaction with oxygen that causes food to deteriorate), loss of moisture, discoloration, transfer of odors, and microbial cross-contamination.

     

    How best to wrap (or store) food?  That takes a lot more space to answer. The array of storage wraps, bags, and containers in the supermarket can leave one befuddled about what product is best for what purpose.  In addition to regular plastic wrap, today there are plastic wraps  and bags for freezing as well as plastic wrap that’s presumably microwave-safe  and wraps that clings better than the original versions (such as Saran Cling Plus).  There are plastic containers in a variety of sizes and shapes, some labeled microwave safe. Then there’s aluminum foil. (Don’t call it tin foil.  It isn’t made with tin anymore.) It comes in various lengths, widths, and strengths as well as a nonstick version and pop-up foil wrappers.

     

    Of all these wrapping products, what best protects your foods from air, pathogens, and each other? Click below  to reach 18 Q/As that tell how to extend the shelf life of foods and wrap them safely.

  • Certain Foods Making You Sick? You May Have Food Allergies!

    Man with Food AllergiesFood allergies may be merely annoying, or they may be life-threatening. About 30,000 Americans rush to emergency rooms every year to receive treatment for serious allergic reactions to foods.  For about 150-200 people, these reactions are fatal. People with food allergies must be careful about what they eat. They also worry about “hidden” allergens that might sneak into their food.

  • When to Throw Food Out? Not on the Use-By Date

    eggs, salsa, yogurtOn August 24th, I got ambitious and cleaned out my refrigerator.  I found these foods--raw eggs, low-fat yogurt, and mild salsa--all languishing far beyond their so-called "expiration" dates.  I asked 4 of the scientists on the Shelf Life Advice Advisory Board to tell me if I could still eat them or if I had to throw them out.  The first 3 sections of this article let you compare their responses.  I hope their explanations help you make better decisions about what "old" food to discard and when.  Note that the philosophy often followed is "Waste not, want not."

  • Raw Sprouts: Nutritious and Dangerous

    Sprouts

    A new sprouts recall  from the FDA arrived in my inbox on August 11, and it reminded me to once again warn visitors to Shelf Life Advice that eating raw sprouts--although they are nutritious and are frequently used to decorate summer sandwiches--are also often contaminated with bacteria that cause food-borne illness.  Let's start with some details about this latest recall and then explain why sprouts are so susceptible to pathogens. Finally, we'll provide some suggestions for how to avoid them.

     

    Good Seed Inc. of Springfield, VA is voluntarily recalling all packages of soybean sprouts and mung bean sprouts because they have the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes, an organism which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections to individuals with weakened immune systems. Although healthy individuals may suffer only short term symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea, Listeria infection can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women.

     

    Salmonella, another baceria that sometimes thrives in sprouts, can also can cause serious, occasionally fatal, illness.  The usual symptoms are diarrhea, fever, and cramps that begin within 48 hours of infection and last 4-7 days.   Serious cases require hospitalization.  Salmonella is especially dangerous for young children, the elderly, and others with weakened immune systems.

     

    To reach a list of the specific products being recalled and other details about the Good Seed recall, go to Good Seed Inc. Recalls Soybean Sprouts and Mung Sprouts Due to A Possible Health Risk.

     

    Raw seed sprouts (such as alfalfa and radish sprouts) have long been touted as a health food.  And there are good reasons for this: they’re an excellent source of many essential nutrients including protein, as well as being a popular, tasty addition to salads and sandwiches. However, unfortunately, sprouts are also a very common source of pathogens (especially salmonella and E.coli) and illness.  FoodSafety.gov (a website from the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services) says that, since 1996, there have been at least 30 reported outbreaks of food-borne illness associated with different types of raw and lightly cooked sprouts.  (Two or more cases of the same food-associated illness is considered an outbreak.)

 
 

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