- Meat and Poultry
- Fish and Shellfish
- Cream and Cream Products
- Eggs and Egg Whites
- Ice Cream
- Dairy Spreads
- Fruit, Fruit Products
- Sauces, Dressing, and Dips
- Condiments, Herbs & Spices, Spreads
- Ingredients for Cooking
- Prepared Foods
- Bakery Goods and Sweets
- Grains, Pasta, and Cereal
- FAQs on Bacteria
- What are bacteria?
- How can I avoid getting sick from a bacterial illness?
- How dangerous is a staph infection?
- Can I assume that if food smells bad its unsafe to eat and if it smells ok that it is safe to eat?
- How dangerous is botulism?
- How dangerous is listeria?
- How many types of bacteria are there?
- What foods are likely to be contaminated by listeria?
- What foods can give a person a staph infection?
- What foods can give a person botulism?
- Why do some bacteria make people sick?
- Why does refrigeration keep bacteria from multiplying?
- Can I avoid all contact with bacteria if I’m careful?
- How Many Bacteria Does It Take to Cause Illness?
- FAQs on Cookware
- Are Ceramic and Enamel Cookware Safe and Practical?
- Are Nonstick Coatings on Cookware a Health Risk?
- Do Cast Iron, Glass, Copper, and Titanium Cookware Have Any Disadvantages?
- Does Using Aluminum Cookware Increase the Chances of Developing Alzheimer’s Disease?
- Is Stainless Steel Cookware a Good Choice?
- Is the New Silicone Rubberized Cookware Safe?
- Nonstick Cookware: Is it Dangerous?
- What Brands of Cookware are Recommended by Experts?
- What Features Should I Look for When Selecting Cookware?
- What Should I Know about Selecting and Using Aluminum Cookware?
- FAQs about Definitions
- Exactly what is meant by the phrase perishable food?
- What Does the Word “Foodie” Mean? It Depends Who(m) You Ask
- What do “sell by,” “best by/before,” “use by” and “expiration” mean?
- What does the term shelf life mean?
- What's in Our Food? Maybe Processing Aids, Maybe not
- “Fresh,” “Natural,” “Processed”—What Do These Words Mean?
- FAQs on Dropped Food
- FAQs on Farmers' Markets
- Exactly what defines a farmers’ market?
- How should I handle produce at home?
- What foods are sold with restrictions at a farmers’ market?
- What should I bring to the farmers’ market?
- What shouldn’t I do or eat at a farmers’ market?
- What signs indicate a sanitary farmers’ market?
- What time of day is it best to go to a farmers’ market?
- Why are farmers’ markets so popular?
- FAQs on Food-borne Illness and Mishandling of Food
- About how many cases of food-borne illness occur in the U.S. each year?
- Answer Key to “How Much Do You Know about Safe Handling of Food?”
- How Much Do You Know about Safe Handling of Food?
- I Left It Out Too Long! Can I Still Eat It?
- Should Your Grocery Card Track Food-Borne Illnesses?
- Sudden, Awful Intestinal Distress--Is it the Flu or a Foodborne Illness--or Both?
- What YOU Can Do to Avoid Food-borne Illness
- What does the phrase food-borne illness refer to?
- FAQs on Food Product Dating
- Are stores required, by law, to remove outdated items from their shelves?
- Do most consumers actually pay attention to the dating on foods?
- Does the “use by” date matter once the product is frozen?
- Is information on food longevity and safety available by phone?
- What are expiration dates?
- What do the terms closed dating and open dating mean?
- What if there is no date on a product, and I don’t remember if I bought it a month ago or ten years ago?
- What should consumers know about food product dating?
- When Did You Buy It? When Did You Open It?
- Who establishes these product dates?
- Who requires and regulates dating on foods?
- Why do “best by” and “use by” dates sometimes seem conservative?
- FAQs on Food Safety
- "Is It Safe To….?" FAQs Answered by our Advisory Board
- FAQs about Mushrooms: Are they Very Dirty or Very Clean?
- FAQs about Soft Cheeses--What's Safe, What Isn't
- FAQs on Raw Fruits and Veggies—the Answers Can Protect Your Wallet and Your Health
- Food/Meat Thermometers—What You Need to Know
- How Long Should Cheese Be Aged? Will the Rules Be Changed?
- How Long Will They REALLY Last? Part I: Non-perishables
- How Long Will They REALLY last? Part II: Perishables
- Imported Foods—What’s Safe, What’s Risky?
- Is It Time to Switch to Pasteurized Eggs?
- Is the Food Safety Modernization Act Making Our Food Supply Safer?
- More FAQs about Minimum Safe Cooking Temperatures: Pork and Other Perishables
- Sushi: Why Such a Short Shelf Life?
- Winter Food Storage—Can I leave It in the Car or in the Garage?
- Would You—Should You—Do You--Eat Irradiated Food?
- FAQs on Food Wrapping
- Are any plastic wraps or containers really “microwave safe”?
- Are some plastic wraps more effective than others?
- Can I refrigerate meat and poultry in its store wrapping?
- Can I use plastic freezer bags to store produce in the fridge?
- Can chemicals leach unto food from plastic wrap or containers?
- Do coated plastic bags really help produce last longer?
- Does aluminum foil give foods a metallic taste?
- Does exposure to aluminum cause Alzheimer’s disease?
- Everything You Need to Know about Wrapping Food Right
- How should fruits be wrapped before refrigeration?
- Is it safe to use aluminum foil in a microwave oven?
- Should I wrap raw vegetables loosely or tightly before refrigerating?
- What are some advantages and disadvantages of aluminum foil?
- What produce needs to be wrapped before refrigerating?
- What’s better for wrapping food—plastic or aluminum foil?
- Why does foil sometimes darken, discolor, and leave black specks on food?
- Will a foil cover help keep foods on the table hot or cold?
- FAQs on Freezing Food
- FAQs on Leftovers
- FAQs on Mold
- What is mold?
- Does mold ever grow on nonperishable food?
- Can I remove a moldy part from food and eat the rest?
- About how many different kinds of molds are there?
- How can I avoid getting mold on my refrigerated food?
- Is mold always visible?
- Are any molds harmless?
- What food groups are most susceptible to mold?
- What kinds of illnesses can result from eating moldy food?
- What kind of packaging protects foods from mold?
- What other safety tips will help prevent mold from growing?
- Why are some molds dangerous?
- FAQs on Organic Food
- What Is Organic Food?
- Are Organic Methods More Humane to Animals?
- Does Conventional Food Have a Longer Shelf Life Than Organic?
- Does Organic Food Taste Better than Conventional Food?
- Is Organic Food More Nutritious Than Conventional Food?
- Is Organically Grown Food Better for the Environment?
- What Do the Various Organic Labels Mean?
- What Important Contributions Has the Organic Movement Made?
- Which Are Safer: Organic or Conventional Food Products?
- Will Organic Baby Food Make Baby Healthier?
- FAQs on Oxidation: How It Affects Foods
- FAQs about Plastic Products Used with Food
- Pyrex® Glassware: Is it safe to use?
- Are plastic bags safe to use in the microwave?
- Are some plastic wraps safer and/or more effective than others?
- Are there any health risks from reusing plastic water bottles by refilling them with tap water?
- Are we eating chemicals from plastics along with our food?
- Can I microwave food in my plastic containers?
- Does the plastic used in water bottles pose a health risk?
- If I heat food in an open can, will that cause the plastic lining to leach chemicals into the food?
- Is it safe to heat frozen entrées in their plastic containers and with their plastic wrap?
- Is it safe to use plastic wrap as a covering when microwaving food?
- Is it safe to wash and dry plastic plates, cups, containers, and utensils in the dishwasher?
- Is there good evidence that BPA is harmful to human health?
- Of the plastic products used to store, heat, or eat with (wraps, bags, containers, silverware, plates, etc.), which contain BPA?
- What is BPA?
- Why is so much of today’s food packaged in plastic?
- FAQs on Preservatives
- What are Preservatives?
- All things considered, is our food supply safer or less safe because of preservatives?
- Are the preservatives in hot dogs and similar products health risks?
- What preservatives are known to cause allergic reactions?
- What are some common preservatives used in food?
- What food groups commonly have preservatives in them?
- Why are preservatives added to food?
- Will the label on the product tell me if it contains a preservative?
- FAQs on Washing Produce: Why and How
- Other FAQs
- Can chicken soup really cure a cold?
- Is Chocolate Good For You?
- FAQs about Food Price Increases
- FAQs about Shelf Life: Tortillas, Pancakes, Wine, and More
- Food Fraud: Are you paying for scallops and getting shark meat?
- Is Cheese Addictive? Only If You Eat It
- Nine FAQs about Food Labels
- Quiz Yourself! Check Your Knowledge about Food Temperatures
- Scientists Answer Two FAQs about Egg Safety
- Some Shelf Life Info, General and Specific (Spirits, Defrosted Veggies, Green Tea, and More)
- Ten FAQs about the Prickly Pineapple
- What's on the Menu in Cuba?
- What’s in My Water? Answers to FAQs
- FAQs on Bacteria
- Books: Food for Thought
- Food Safety
- It Says "Use By Tomorrow," But You Don't Have To
- Ten Tips for Consumer Food Safety
- Food Allergies: Recognizing and Controlling Them
- “Is It Spoiled?” When in Doubt, Check It Out
- How To Keep Your Cooler Cool
- Recent Recalls: Salmonella Threatens 100s of Products
- STOP! Don’t Rinse That Raw Chicken!
- Sous Vide—A Better Way to Cook?
- Why You Need a Safe Cooking Temperature Chart and How to Get One Right Now
- “Myth-information” about Food Safety: You’d Better Not Believe It
- After The Storm: What You Can Save and What You Must Throw Out
- How to Protect Your Food During a Power Outage
- Meet Your Beef--Via Bar Code Info
- Tips About 4 Popular Beverages: Wine, Coffee, Water, and Soda
- Tips on Water Safety During and After a Storm
- Introducing our Advisory Board Scientists
- Produce: Handling Tips
- Seasonal Tips
- A Novel Method for Cooking a Turkey
- Crock Pot Cooking Tips for that Ideal Winter Dinner
- Going Away for All or Part of the Winter? Prepare Your Kitchen for your Absence
- How To Grill Safely During the Summer
- How do summer squash and winter squash differ?
- New Year’s Resolutions For a Safer Kitchen
- Preserve the Taste of Summer by Canning—But Do It Safely
- Summer Food Fests Offer Much More than Calories
- Tips on Keeping Your Summer Fruits Flavorful and Healthy
- Tips on Three Summer Pleasures: Ice Cream, Grilled Entrées, and Food Festivals
- Shelf Life Tips
- Tips for Carry-along Lunches for Work and School
- Tips for Freezing Food and Freezer Care
- Cooking Frozen Foods
- Freezers And Food Safety
- Freezers And Freezer Burn
- Freezers And Nutrient Retention
- How Often Should You Defrost And Clean Your Freezer?
- How To Defrost And Clean Your Freezer
- How To Defrost Frozen Foods
- How To Freeze Foods: The Quicker The Better
- How To Wrap Foods For The Freezer
- Refreezing Frozen Foods
- What You Can Freeze And What You Can't--Or Shouldn't
- Tips About Genetically Engineered Foods
- Tips for Grocery Shopping
- Tips for Holidays
- Chocolate Is Even More Healthful Than You Thought
- Enjoy St. Patrick’s Day Without Cabbage Stink
- Everything You Need to Know about Cranberry Sauce
- Halloween Treats Even Parents Will Love
- Kitchen Gifts that Really Work
- Spring Celebrations: What’s on Your Menu?
- Suggestions for Handling Your Child’s “Trick or Treat” Treasures
- What NOT to Do With Thanksgiving Dinner
- Yikes! The Turkey Is Done, But the Guests Are Delayed! How Do I Keep My Thanksgiving Dinner Warm?
- Tips on Kitchen Equipment
- Tips for Refrigerating Food and Refrigerator Care
- Food Safety Facts
- How To Clean The Refrigerator
- How To Wrap Foods For Refrigeration
- How long can a pie be left unrefrigerated?
- Power Outage? Here’s What to Do with All That Food in the Fridge
- Proper Handling Of Produce In The Crisper(s)
- Proper Refrigeration Placement Of Raw Meat, Chicken, And Fish
- Six Tips for Extending the Shelf Life of Foods
- What Can and Can't Go In The Fridge Door
- Other Tips
- Microwave Cooking
- The 10 Most Dangerous Foods To Consume While Driving
- Are Your Kids Home Alone after School? Educate Them about Snacking
- Clever Inventions That Can Change Eating Habits
- Eggies™ to the Rescue?
- Ever Eaten “Glued” Food?
- Food Definitions: Umami, Locavore, Fruit, Heirloom, and Artisan
- If You Don't Know Beans about Beans...
- In Defense of Processed Food
- Kids and Cooking: A Good Combo
- New Uses for Old Food: Try 'Em Out!
- Portabella Mushrooms and Their Relatives: How to Handle Them
- Ten Exotic Fruits: Novel Treats to Drink and Eat
- Tofu: Water Regularly, Consume Promptly
- What This Site Is All About and How to Navigate It
- About Us
- In the News
Fighting Food Waste--in Homes and Labs
World-wide, about 1/3 of the food being produced is wasted. Of course, all this waste is an expense for individuals and families; furthermore, scientists keep warning us, organic waste material is detrimental to the environment in many ways. However, the positive side of the story is that human ingenuity is hard at work--at home, in labs, and in the business world--trying to decrease waste. For consumers, it's partly a matter of not creating waste in the first place and partly a matter of using leftovers in new ways to avoid losing them to the garbage can. More interesting are the ways in which science and industry try to deal with edible garbage by converting it into something useful. Various ideas have been in the news these days. We're hearing and reading about everything from the Biblical practice of gleaning to high-tech methods of transforming discarded food into energy. And between those two extremes are simple money-saving methods that, you, the consumer, can use at home.
How the Savvy Consumer Can Cut Down on Discards:
Mother Nature Network says that every year a family of 4 Americans discards $2,275 in wasted food. The blog then provides a list of suggestions, beginning with this one, which I love: "The website Shelf Life Advice looks very helpful in the fight against food waste. It has lots of handy tips on how long foods are good for, storing foods to give them a longer life, and more."
Yes, Shelf Life Advice can help you cut down on waste with its countless tips on handling specific foods properly and thereby delaying spoilage. But, in addition, the site has posted three articles specifically focused on ways to fight food waste and why it's important to do so. Here are links to them:
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), "One-third of the food produced in the world for human consumption is thrown away or lost. In industrialized countries, food waste most often happens at the retail and consumer levels. From the farm to the home, Americans waste about 40% of the food produced, but this figure does include things like meat bones and fruit rinds. Estimates are that consumers discard about 25% of the food they buy. Restaurants also discard a lot of food, especially what's been sitting on buffets. Supermarkets do, too, discarding daily, for example, unsold cooked whole chickens. North American consumers take the prize for wasting more food than those living in any other continent.
Here are some generalizations that come up over and over in newspaper, magazine, and online articles and some specific examples to support them:
- Don't buy so much. Don't go grocery shopping when you're hungry or have plenty of time for tempting browsing. Go shopping with meal plans and a list of items needed, and don't buy anything else--unless it's a great bargain and a healthful family favorite. Try not to carry one or more kids in your grocery cart; they'll nag you into buying all sorts of unnecessary and probably unhealthy items.
- Keep track of what's in your fridge, and use perishable food before it spoils. Milk getting old? Make chocolate pudding.
- Use leftovers in new ways to entice your family to eat them. Bananas getting soft? Make smoothies or a banana cake. Apples being ignored? Make some baked apples or a pie.
- Make stock for soups. Use vegetables that are misshapen or wilted you may not want to serve, but they'll add a lot to stock, as will bones from the chicken or roast that was last night's dinner. Shells from crustaceans such as lobster and crab can contribute to a fish soup base.. Stock will keep in the fridge for a week and in the freezer for months.
- Before fruits go bad, consider making a simple compote. Boil and sweeten with a caloric or non-caloric sweetener. Compote can be frozen.
- Freeze leftovers in small containers (preferably microwavable) that you can take to work for lunch.
- Find ways to dispose of what you're not going to eat so that these foods are not adding to environmental pollution. Going on vacation? Offer your leftovers to a neighbor instead of discarding them. Compost your discarded food yourself or, the Chicago Tribune suggests, use a composting service to collect it.
Gleaning and Other Giveaways:
"Every year, some 7 billion pounds of fresh produce are left in fields or sent to landfills," says the USA Today in a lengthy article on gleaning. Meanwhile, in this struggling economy, millions cannot afford the fresh produce sold in retail stores. Gleaning is one solution that's helping. In many communities, organized volunteers pick fresh fruit that has fallen to the ground and take misshapen produce that farmers can't sell to food banks. Individuals, too, sometimes glean to bring fresh produce home. Collecting what would otherwise be waste helps to feed the 50 million Americans that sometimes can't afford to buy food, including 17 million Americans regularly forced to skip meals. The problem of food insecurity (affecting 6.8 million American households last year, according to the Department of Agriculture) can be alleviated by cutting down on waste.
We asked food process engineer Dr. Timothy Bowser about the health risks of gleaning since produce lying on the ground can be contaminated by wild animals and polluted water and give the person eating it a food-borne illness. "Many nuts and some fruit products are collected from the ground. Apples collected from the ground were implicated in several outbreaks caused by unpasteurized apple cider. Personally, I think that collection from the ground is okay as long as the product is cleaned and sanitized." Proper sanitizing is accomplished with a mixture of water and the recommended amount of household bleach.
Use one gallon of water and the following amounts of bleach for these products:
- Apples, pears, squash, cucumbers: 1 teaspoon of bleach
- Leafy greens, peaches, peppers, tomatoes, asparagus, broccoli, carrots: 2 teaspoons of bleach
- Melons, citrus, root crops: 2 tablespoons of bleach
Produce must be rinsed well with potable water after the sanitizing treatment.
Here's another great idea that came into being when the infamous 2012 drought bypassed Minnesota. That state had too much corn for Green Giant to use. Enter the corn rescue. The Chicago Tribune reported that 600,000 pounds of corn became 465,000 meals eaten by residents of 10 states. Small farmers had donated surplus crops before, but this rescue, started by Seneca Foods (which freezes and cans Green Giant products for General Mills) was the first major rescue effort on this large scale.
Scientific Solutions to Waste:
The September 2012 issue of Time magazine contained a fascinating article about the research of Carol Lin, a biochemical engineer at the City University of Hong Kong. She and her team of researchers "are converting organic food waste (think old pastries, bread and coffee grounds) into succinic acid." Perhaps you never heard of that chemical, but you live with it. It is one of the versatile ingredients created by bacteria, and it's an important component of biodegradable plastics. Furthermore, it's widely used, according to the article, "in everything from laundry-detergent bottles to food additives to car parts." Lin's Hong Kong lab is not the only one trying to make waste useful. Similar efforts are going on in labs around the world.
Two of our Advisory Board scientists offered these reassurances that measures can be taken to deal with the food waste problem:
Dr. Joe Regenstein (food scientist): "There are lot of uses for food waste, such as composting, biogas, and waste to energy. In my mind, the best idea would be re-feeding to animals such as pigs or poultry. The slop would need a heat treatment to prevent the spread of trichinosis."
Dr. Bowser: "I have worked on many projects designed to reduce or reuse food waste. Currently, I've submitted a grant proposal for a research project that investigates the use of mushroom byproducts for pet food. Once a product or ingredient enters the waste stream, it loses value and may become a liability.
"Much research can still be done on methods to keep food from entering the waste stream. Conversion of food waste to chemicals is a valid application. Oklahoma State University has looked at other opportunities including gasification of food waste to produce energy."
Timothy J. Bowser, Ph.D., Oklahoma State University, Dept. of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering
Joe Regenstein, Ph.D., Cornell University, Dept. of Food Science
mnn.com (mother nature network) "Do almost half your groceries go in the trash?
USA Today "Volunteers take to fields in harvest against hunger" October 8, 2012
news.blogs.cnn.com "40% of U.S. Food Wasted, Report Says"
fao.org (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations)
"FAO, partners, urge greater push to reduce food losses and waste"
okstate.edu "Guidelines for the Use of Chlorine Bleach as a Sanitizer in Food Processing Operations"
Time "Waste Not: Can old food really be repurposed?" September 10, 2012
(link accessible to Time subscribers only)
Chicago Tribune "Diving into the food waste problem" April 18, 2012
Chicago Tribune "In Minnesota, surplus corn feeds 465K hungry" September 9, 2012
Chicago Tribune "Don't toss those shells" September 26, 2012.