What People Wonder About Water

We're getting so used to use-by dates that sometimes we hesitate to make decisions without them. For example, when has an unopened bottle of water hung around too long?  Other questions come to mind: Where does bottled water come from? Which is better, bottled water or tap (municipal)?

Summer Party Tips: Baby Carrots (Using for Dips) Hot Dogs (Ditching the Guilt), and Watermelon (Finding a Ripe One)

watermelon, carrotsSummer parties often involve dipping, grilling, and happily biting into fresh fruit. Here are some useful things to know about those mini-carrots perfect for dipping into guacamole or hummus, those hot dogs sizzling invitingly on the grill, and that giant watermelon waiting to be sliced. Nothing shouts summer quite as loudly as these foods.  Let's answer some FAQs about these ubiquitous treats.  Note: some questions express concerns about harmful substances in these beloved edibles. 

What shouldn’t I do or eat at a farmers’ market?

Farmers' MarketConsider following these tips to decrease the risk of food-borne illness:

 

• Don’t drink or buy unpasteurized juices, raw (unpasteurized) milk, or unpasteurized cheese.  Fresh, unpasteurized, chemical-free beverages may taste delicious, but they’ve been known to harbor E.coli, which can cause serious illness.

 

• Don’t snack on fruit until you’ve washed it well.

 

• Don’t buy canned (jarred) vegetables or garlic-in-oil unless you know these were prepared in an inspected kitchen.

Raw Sprouts: Nutritious and Dangerous

SproutsOnce again, Shelf Life Advice wants to remind you that raw sprouts can be a risky food. They're often used to decorate summer sandwiches and they're also often contaminated with bacteria that cause food-borne illness.  Let's start with some reasons why sprouts are so susceptible to pathogens.

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.

BYOB: It Also Means "Bring your own bag."

grocery bagThe movement to ban those flimsy thow-away plastic grocery bags has recently come to Chicago and one of it's neigboring suberbs, Evanston. I have  mixed feelings about this required change in my bagging habits.

Warnings! Not Everything You Eat Is Healthy

So what shouldn't you eat?

Grocery Shopping Strategies for Safe Shopping

Woman grocery shoppingProtecting yourself and those that share your  household  from food-borne illness begins with careful grocery shopping.  The U.S. government urges consumers to take these precautions:

• Shop only in stores that look and smell clean.

• Shop for items that are not refrigerated or frozen first.  Put perishables and frozen foods into your cart last. 

Spring Celebrations: What’s on Your Menu?

matzoUSDA’s Meat and Poultry Hotline gets extra busy this time of year with brisket, baked ham, and egg questions. Here are some Spring food safety tips based on questions our Hotline Food Safety Specialists have received from callers.

 

How long can I keep a ham in the refrigerator before cooking it? 

 

To answer your question, we need to know what type of ham you’re buying and how it’s packaged. What does the label advise? The label is the best guide for determining storage time. It gives the product name, whether it’s smoked or cured, and whether you must refrigerate it. While USDA doesn’t require manufacturers to list the freshness date on products, many do. Look for the instructions on the label that tell you how long you can keep the product. For example: “Best if used by April 15.”

Are Eggs Dyed for Easter Safe to Eat?

Dyed Easter EggsYes, if the answers to all the following questions are “Yes.”

 

Is the dye safe to ingest?  Check the package.  Most dyes in children’s kits are vegetable dyes and are safe.  However, some kits are meant to be used on blown-out eggs, and the decorative materials (such as sprinkles) aren’t intended for consumption. If you use food coloring, of course, that’s also edible. If the dye is edible, it’s okay to eat the eggs even if, when peeled, you note that  some color has leaked unto the egg white.

 
 

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