When in doubt, throw it out, to prevent food poisoning.
- If you are not sure whether a food is safe, don't eat it or taste it.
- Reheating food that is contaminated cannot destroy the toxins of some bacteria and will not make food safe.
- Never use canned goods that have dents in the seams or bulging lids, rusted cans or missing labels.
- Throw out moldy foods. Do not trim around the mold.
- Don’t use packages with damaged or broken seals.
- Don't taste suspicious food. It may smell and look fine but still may not be safe to eat.
- Do not rely on the appearance or smell of a food item to determine its safety.
- Practice proper stock rotation by storing older foods in the front and newer foods in the back. This helps in using up the older foods first.
- If meats, eggs or leftovers have been above 4°C (40 °F) for more than two hours, throw them out.
- Discard fresh fruits and vegetables that have not been refrigerated within two hours of cutting, peeling or cooking.
- Throw away fresh produce that will not be cooked if it has touched raw meat, poultry, seafood or eggs, or if it hasn’t been refrigerated within two hours of cutting, peeling or cooking.
- Throw away bruised or damaged portions of produce when preparing to cook them or before eating them raw.
- Do not ignore “use by“ dates, as the product may not be safe to eat or drink after this time. Remember that food can also go bad before its “use by” date if it is not stored properly. Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for safe storage.
- If in doubt, THROW IT OUT!
- Refrigerator Storage Chart
FOOD EXPIRATION DATES (Taken from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency)
Best Before Dates:
- The best-before date indicates to consumers that if the product has been properly handled (stored under conditions appropriate to that product), the unopened product should be of high quality until the specified date.
- Best-before dates do not guarantee product safety. However, they do give you information about the freshness and potential shelf-life of the unopened foods you are buying.
- It is important to note that a best-before date is not the same as an expiration date.
- "Packaged on" dates are similar to "best-before" date but are used on retail-packed foods with a durable life date of 90 days or less, and must be accompanied by durable life information either on the label or on a poster next to the food.
- The durable life information can be expressed several ways, for example, the number of days a product will retain its freshness, or a best-before date. Together, the "packaged on" date and durable life information tell consumers about the anticipated amount of time that an unopened food product will retain its quality and freshness.
- An expiration date is not the same as a best-before date. Expiration dates are required only on certain foods that have strict compositional and nutritional specifications which might not be met after the expiration date.
- Expiration dates must be used on the following products:
- formulated liquid diets (nutritionally complete diets for people using oral or tube feeding methods)
- foods represented for use in a very low-energy diet (foods sold only by a pharmacist and only with a written order from a physician)
- meal replacements (formulated food that, by itself, can replace one or more daily meals)
- nutritional supplements (food sold or represented as a supplement to a diet that may be inadequate in energy and essential nutrients)
- human milk substitutes (infant formula)
- After the expiration date, the food may not have the same nutrient content declared as on the label.
- Food should not be bought, sold or eaten if the expiration date has passed. It should be discarded.
Other Date Markings:
The Food and Drug Regulations state the terms "use by" and "employez avant" may replace "best before" for prepackaged fresh yeast only. It must be presented in the same form and manner as the best-before date.
Other voluntary date marking systems may be useful to consumers. These may appear on food products as long as they are not misleading and the label meets appropriate requirements. These include:
- "sell by" dates
- "prepared on" dates
- "freeze by" dates
- "manufactured on" dates
How long do freezer foods really keep? Do they have an expiration date? There’s a short and a long answer here. The short answer is that foods will keep indefinitely in a frozen state. That’s right — as long as your freezer is plugged in and functioning normally, frozen foods will never expire, go bad, or pose any health issues. However, while foods will technically keep forever, they do not actually stay tasty forever.
Freezer burn is also an issue. It creeps into packages, covers once-delicious foods with frost, and then sucks the moisture out of them. When thawed, foods that developed freezer burn look desiccated and limp. You can cook them, technically, but they will lack good flavor or texture. Freezer burn is inevitable even in the most well-packaged foods.
As a general rule of thumb, frozen food will keep for three months in a standard home freezer before starting to show signs of freezer burn. How the food was packaged, how often you open the freezer (which quickens freezer burn), and other factors can extend the “shelf life” or shorten the "shelf life" of your frozen food.
For more specific information on freezer safe storage please see the attached freezer storage chart adapted from the Food Safety and Inspection Service, USDA.