Fridge Food Safety

01/03/08 You expect food in the supermarket to be fresh, that meats and dairy products are well within the date on the package. But what about that funky food in the back of your refrigerator; is it safe to eat?

Linda Greene, Consumer Reports, says "Food borne illness does kill about 5,000 people a year. So you do want to be careful."

Consumer Reports Shopsmart has advice on what to keep and what to toss: Like that meat that's been in the back of the freezer for more than a year? This chicken is from June of '06!

"Frozen food will be safe indefinitely in your freezer as long as it's kept at zero degrees," says Greene.

Fresh eggs that are federally graded like these are safe for up to five weeks after the expiration date on the carton. What about hard cheese that's gotten moldy?

"You just can't cut off the visible mold. Spoilage, and sometimes toxins, can go deeper than what you see," Greene says.

Cut at least an inch around the mold spot.

Check your cabinets, too. Canned foods don't last forever! Tomatoes, peaches, and other high-acid foods, after 18 months, get rid of them!

Meats and vegetables get rid of them after two to five years. That's if the cans have been stored properly.

Greene says "Don't store cans above the stove, under the sink, or anywhere there are temperature extremes."

And throw out severely dented cans or any that are bulging or leaking.

You may have been told not to refreeze food that has been previously frozen. But Consumer Reports says as long as it was thawed properly in a refrigerator or microwave, it's safe to refreeze. But be aware it may not be as tasty because of moisture lost during defrosting.

As for leftovers, they should be refrigerated within two hours because bacteria multiply quickly at room temperature. So toss out the pizza that sat out overnight!

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