You probably have some concerns about the foods you give to your family. Is it a nutritious meal? Will your children eat it? Is there too much fat? But one thing that is often overlooked and should not be is food storage.
Proper food storage is necessary to prevent your family from becoming sick from food-borne illnesses caused by bacteria such as E. coli, Salmonella, Campylobacter and Listeria (which can cause symptoms such as diarrhea, fever, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, and dehydration).
The first time food storage becomes an important issue for you is when you've brought your food home from the grocery store. Before you put groceries away, check the temperature of your refrigerator and freezer. Your refrigerator should be set for 40 degrees Fahrenheit (5 degrees Celsius), and your freezer should be set to 0 degrees Fahrenheit (-18 degrees Celsius) or lower. These chilly temperatures will help keep any bacteria in your foods from multiplying. If your refrigerator doesn't have a thermostat, it's a good idea to invest in a thermometer for the fridge and freezer.
Of course, when putting away groceries, refrigerated and frozen items should be put away first. Here are some quick tips to remember for foods that need to be kept cool:
- Keep eggs in the original carton on a shelf in your refrigerator (most refrigerator doors don't keep eggs cold enough).
- Put meat, poultry, and fish in separate plastic bags so that their juices don't get on your other foods.
- Freeze - or cook - raw meat, poultry, or fish within 2 days.
- Store raw ground meats in the freezer for a maximum of 6 months. Label them with the date you froze them to help you remember.
- Freeze cooked meats for a maximum of 4 months. Again -- label, label, label!
The second time that food storage comes into play is when you've finished a meal and have leftovers to store. Here are the rules there:
- Refrigerate any leftovers as soon as possible after cooking. If left to sit at room temperature, bacteria in the food will multiply quickly.
- Consume leftovers within 3 to 5 days or throw them out.
- When reheating leftovers, make sure they reach at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit (74 degrees Celsius).
Keeping you and your family safe when it comes to food storage isn't hard ... but it does require you to pay attention to details that might otherwise slip by unnoticed. Here's to a healthy holiday!