Consumers Association of Penang

Giving voice to the little people...since 1970

Food storage: For how long & how to?

How long can foods be stored?

Many people do keep their food longer than the above guidelines. If you keep your food longer, make sure you check it each time to see that it has not turned mouldy, slimy, stinky, rancid or otherwise rotten. Always check the food BEFORE you taste it.

•    Ground meats, fresh poultry and raw fish should be used within 1-2 days after purchase.

•    Milk, cream, cottage cheese and cream cheese are good for a week after opening.

•    Hard cheeses that are tightly wrapped are good for 2-3 months.

•    Eggs are good for 3-4 weeks. Keep them refrigerated.

•    Cooked or uncooked vegetables are good in the refrigerator for 3-5 days.

•    Bread, cake and cookies (or anything made from a batter with yeast or wheat) should be used within a week to avoid mould.

•    Baked goods will last longer (2 weeks) if refrigerated.

•    Leftover chicken, gravy, sauce, chicken or tuna salads and turkey pies are only good for 1-2 days if refrigerated.

•    Mustard, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce and other condiments should be used within a year of opening the container.

•    Mayonnaise, once opened, is good for 2 months.

•    Open bottles of salad dressing are good for 3 months.

•    Ketchup, jams, jelly and peanut butter are good for 6 months.

If you cannot remember when a food was placed in the refrigerator, throw it out.

Is all mouldy food dangerous?

Food poisoning is caused by various bacterial organisms. Mould is not a bacteria and will not cause food poisoning. Mould does not cause botulism unless the product was already contaminated with the botulism organism.

Mould can cause illness, especially if the person is allergic to moulds. Usually though, the main symptoms from eating mouldy food will be nausea or vomiting from the bad taste and smell of the mouldy food.

How can I keep food stored safely?

Keep refrigerator temperature between 35-400F and freezer temperatures at 00F or lower.

Space food items in your refrigerator and freezer so cold air can freely circulate.

Wrap raw meat, fish or poultry in separate plastic bags. Place them on a plate or tray on the lowest shelf in the refrigerator to keep leaking juices from dripping on other foods.

Freeze fresh meat, fish or poultry if they are not going to be used in the next 2 days. Rewrap meat packages in aluminum foil or freezer paper to keep the meat airtight.

Pack perishable foods in coolers with ice or ice packs when cleaning or defrosting your refrigerator or freezer.

Use plenty of ice in the picnic chest to keep foods such as egg salad, potato salad, macaroni salad or any dishes made with mayonnaise or cream cold. Don’t leave these foods in the sun.

After holiday meals, remember to place the leftover chicken in the refrigerator. Do not leave the chicken on the counter or in the oven overnight.

Do not leave stuffing in the chicken when you refrigerate it.

How do I know if foods are cooked thoroughly and properly?

•    Red meat should be cooked to 1600F.

•    Large cuts of red meat can be cooked to medium rare, 1450F.

•    Ground meat and hamburgers should be cooked all the way through until the center is at least 160-1650 F.

•    Cook fish to 130-1400F, until the centre looks opaque when tested with a fork.

•    Cook pork to 1550F with no pink.

•    Cook chicken to 170-1800F or until the juices run clear.

•    Eggs should be cooked until both the yolk and the white are firm.

•    Heat left-overs to 1650F. When reheating sauces, soups and gravies, bring them to a boil.

•    Never drink unpasteurised milk or dairy products.

•    Do not eat raw cookie dough that contains eggs.

•    Do not use leftover marinades as they contain raw meat juices.

Source: California Poison Control System