Thursday, February 4, 2010
Proper Food Storage
How important is proper food storage? It can
Preserve food quality, including nutrients,
flavor and texture;
Make the most of your food dollar by preventing
Prevent food-borne illness caused by harmful
To store food properly, you need to know not
only how to store foods, but also how long they
will be safe and of high quality.
The quality of fresh meat or produce when it
is acquired greatly affects how long it can be
stored without spoilage or loss of quality. The
storage times in this publication assume that
foods are fresh and desirable when acquired. Remember
that stored foods are never fresher than
when first put into storage.
When grocery shopping, choose perishable
items last, go straight home and store them properly
in the refrigerator or freezer.
A good policy to follow is “first in, first out,”
meaning that you rotate items so that you use
the older items first. Also, buy foods in reasonable
amounts so that you can use them while
they are still of good quality. Excess food may
Pantry storage conditions should be dry, cool
and dark. Ideally, the temperature in the pantry
should be 50 to 70 °F. Higher temperatures
speed up deterioration. Always store foods in the
coolest cabinets away from the range, oven, water
heater, dishwasher or any hot pipes. For example,
the area under the sink is not a good place
to store potatoes or onions.
Although many staples and pantry items have
a long shelf life and may be advertised at special
prices, buy only what you expect to use within
the recommended storage times.
To prevent foods from deteriorating in the
pantry, store them in metal, glass or plastic containers.
Keep these containers, as well as commercially
canned foods, clean and free of dust,
which can drop into them when opened. Treat
storage areas for pests and clean the pantry periodically
to remove food particles.
Storing Home Canned Foods
Testing Jar Seals
After cooling jars for 12 to 24 hours, remove the screw bands and test seals with one of the following options:
Option 1: Press the middle of the lid with a finger or thumb. If the lid springs up when you release your finger, the lid is unsealed.
Option 2: Tap the lid with the bottom of a teaspoon. If it makes a dull sound, the lid is not sealed. If food is in contact with the underside of the lid, it will also cause a dull sound. If the jar is sealed correctly, it will make a ringing, high-pitched sound.
Option 3: Hold the jar at eye level and look across the lid. The lid should be concave (curved down slightly in the center). If center of the lid is either flat or bulging, it may not be sealed.
Reprocessing Unsealed Jars
If a lid fails to seal on a jar, remove the lid and check the jar-sealing surface for tiny nicks. If necessary, change the jar, add a new, properly prepared lid, and reprocess within 24 hours using the same processing time. Headspace in unsealed jars may be adjusted to 1½ inches and jars could be frozen instead of reprocessed. Foods in single unsealed jars could be stored in the refrigerator and consumed within several days.
Storing Canned Foods
If lids are tightly vacuum sealed on cooled jars, remove screw bands, wash the lid and jar to remove food residue; then rinse and dry jars. Label and date the jars and store them in a clean, cool, dark, dry place. For best quality, store between 50 and 70 °F. Can no more food than you will use within a year.
Do not store jars above 95° F or near hot pipes, a range, a furnace, in an uninsulated attic, or in direct sunlight. Under these conditions, food will lose quality in a few weeks or months and may spoil. Dampness may corrode metal lids, break seals, and allow recontamination and spoilage.
Accidental freezing of canned foods will not cause spoilage unless jars become unsealed and recontaminated. However, freezing and thawing may soften food. If jars must be stored where they may freeze, wrap them in newspapers, place them in heavy cartons, and cover with more newspapers and blankets.
Identifying and Handling Spoiled Canned Food
Do not taste food from a jar with an unsealed lid or food that shows signs of spoilage.
You can more easily detect some types of spoilage in jars stored without screw bands. Growth of spoilage bacteria and yeast produces gas which pressurizes the food, swells lids, and breaks jar seals. As each stored jar is selected for use, examine its lid for tightness and vacuum. Lids with concave centers have good seals.
Next, while holding the jar upright at eye level, rotate the jar and examine its outside surface for streaks of dried food originating at the top of the jar. Look at the contents for rising air bubbles and unnatural color.
While opening the jar, smell for unnatural odors and look for spurting liquid and cotton like mold growth (white, blue, black, or green) on the top food surface and underside of lid.
Spoiled low-acid foods, including tomatoes, may exhibit different kinds of spoilage evidence or very little evidence. Therefore, all suspect containers of spoiled low-acid foods, including tomatoes, should be treated as having produced botulinum toxin and handled carefully in one of two ways:
If the swollen metal cans or suspect glass jars are still sealed, place them in a heavy garbage bag. Close and place the bag in a regular trash container or bury it in a nearby landfill.
If the suspect cans or glass jars are unsealed, open, or leaking, they should be detoxified before disposal.
Detoxification process: Carefully place the suspect containers and lids on their sides in an 8-quart volume or larger stock pot, pan, or boiling-water canner. Wash your hands thoroughly. Carefully add water to the pot. The water should completely cover the containers with a minimum of a 1-inch level above the containers. Avoid splashing the water. Place a lid on the pot and heat the water to boiling. Boil 30 minutes to ensure detoxifying the food and all container components. Cool and discard the containers, their lids, and food in the trash or bury in soil.
Thoroughly scrub all counters, containers, and equipment including can opener, clothing, and hands that may have contacted the food or containers. Discard any sponges or wash cloths that may have been used in the cleanup. Place them in a plastic bag and discard in the trash.