Storing food safely to prevent food poisoning
Storing food promptly and correctly can help prevent food poisoning.
- Set your refrigerator at or below 40°F (4°C) and your freezer at or below 0°F (-18°C).
- Refrigerate or freeze meat, poultry, eggs, fish, shellfish, ready-to-eat foods, and leftovers within 2 hours or sooner. If the temperature is above 90°F (32°C), refrigerate within 1 hour. (This is often the case during summer picnics.)
- Do not keep fresh poultry, fish, or ground meats in the refrigerator for more than 2 days. Cook or freeze them.
- Do not keep fresh beef, veal, lamb, or pork in the refrigerator more than 3 to 5 days. Cook or freeze them.
- Divide large amounts of leftovers into shallow containers for quicker cooling. Use refrigerated leftovers within 3 to 4 days.
- Don't pack your refrigerator with food. Cool air must circulate to keep food safe.
- Never store cooked or ready-to-eat food below raw food in the refrigerator.
- Always store food in leak-proof, clean containers with tight-fitting lids.
- In general, high-acid canned food such as tomatoes, grapefruit, and pineapple can be stored in a cupboard for 12 to 18 months.
- In general, low-acid canned food such as meat, poultry, fish, and most vegetables can be stored for 2 to 5 years. But the can must be in good condition and stored in a cool, clean, dry place.
- Do not keep canned food if the cans are dented, leaking, bulging, or rusting.
If the food has a "use by" date, consume the food by that date or throw it out. If it has no date or only a "sell by" date, use the following table. It tells you how long you should keep some popular foods in the refrigerator or freezer. If you follow the recommended refrigeration time, you will ensure that food is safe and doesn't spoil. Freezing food keeps it safe for as long as it is frozen, so the recommended freezer-storage times are only to ensure highest quality.
|Product||Can refrigerate for:||Can freeze for:|
|Bacon||7 days||1 month|
|Beef, ground||1 to 2 days||3 to 4 months|
|Beef, steaks and roasts||3 to 5 days||
4 to 12 months
|Cheese, processed or brick||3 to 4 weeks||Can be frozen, but affects taste and texture|
|Chicken, breasts or legs||1 to 2 days||9 months|
|Chicken, giblets||1 to 2 days||3 to 4 months|
|Chicken, whole||1 to 2 days||12 months|
|Eggs, hard boiled||1 week||Do not freeze well|
3 to 5 weeks
|Do not freeze|
|Fish, fatty (salmon, perch, other)||1 to 2 days||2 to 3 months|
|Fish, lean (cod, flounder, other)||1 to 2 days||Up to 6 months|
|Gravy||1 to 2 days||2 to 3 months|
|Ice cream, ice milk||Do not refrigerate||2 to 4 months|
|Lunch meat, opened package||3 to 5 days||1 to 2 months|
|Lunch meat, unopened package||2 weeks||1 to 2 months|
|Mayonnaise||2 months||Do not freeze|
|Pizza, cooked||3 to 4 days||1 to 2 months|
|Pork, chops||3 to 5 days||4 to 6 months|
|Pork, ground||1 to 2 days||3 to 4 months|
|Pork, roasts||3 to 5 days||4 to 6 months|
|Soups, stews (with vegetables or meat)||3 to 4 days||2 to 3 months|
|Sausage||1 to 2 days||1 to 2 months|
Last Updated: February 23, 2009
Author: Bets Davis, MFA