Food storage and preservation safety is critical
Published on March 21, 2020
As many restaurants close amidst COVID-19 concerns, more and more consumers are flocking to grocery stores, emptying their shelves. Many families, especially rural families who may be miles from the nearest store, may turn to food preservation techniques to minimize trips to the store and make the most of their supplies.
Food safety is legally enforced in restaurants and other stores, but not so much in a home kitchen. It is pivotal consumers follow food safety protocols as they navigate through home cooking and food preservation.
As part of the land grant mission, Extension programs across the country offer resources for food preparation, storage and preservation. University of Wyoming Extension Nutrition, Health and Food Safety Department can be reached at email@example.com.
“Proper food storage helps to preserve the quality and nutritional value of the foods we purchase and also helps make the most of our food dollar by preventing spoilage,” according to Colorado State University (CSU) Extension. “Additionally, proper food storage can help prevent foodborne illnesses caused by harmful bacteria.”
“To retain quality and nutritive value, stock only the kinds and amounts of food that can be stored properly. Proper storage means maintaining a clean refrigerator and freezer,” says CSU. “Avoid overcrowding the refrigerator. Arrange items so cold air can circulate freely.”
CSU continues, “To reduce dehydration and quality loss, use freezer wrap, freezer-quality plastic bags, or aluminum foil over commercial wrap on meat and poultry that will be stored in the freezer for more than two months.”
CSU lists a number of perishable items that can have extended shelf lives with proper use of the refrigerator and freezer.
Breads can last for two-to-three weeks refrigerated and up to three months in the freezer. Storage in the refrigerator inhibits the growth of mold. Both white and whole wheat flour can last up to eight months in the fridge and up to one year in the freezer if kept in an airtight container.
Dairy products such as milk, butter and cheese can be preserved for longer periods of time in the fridge and freezer. In the fridge, butter can be expected to last up to three months, while the freezer can extend its life up to a year. Natural and aged cheeses can be kept good for up to eight months in the freezer, with fridge lifespans ranging from two weeks to 12 months.
Milk generally only lasts a week in the fridge, but can last up to three months in the freezer, though CSU notes the taste, appearance and use for cooking will change if frozen.
CSU doesn’t recommend freezing fresh eggs, however liquid pasteurized eggs can be frozen for up to one year.
A variety of fruits and vegetables can be stored in both the fridge and freezer, most of which can last up to a year in the freezer with the exception of avocados, bananas, citrus fruits and melons, which only last up to six months.
It is not recommended to freeze cucumbers, lettuce, salad greens, onions and radishes.
Fresh meat has varied fridge and freezer lifespans. Lamb will only keep in the fridge for about four days, but can be frozen for up to nine months. Beef steaks can be frozen for up to a year.
Ground and stew meat should only be kept in the freezer for four months at most. Processed meats such as bacon have a far shorter freezer life, CSU only recommends freezing bacon and lunch meats for one month.
While poultry products only last for a couple of days in the fridge, CSU notes they can be kept in the freezer. Whole chickens and turkey can be stored for up to a year, chicken pieces for nine months and turkey pieces for six months.
Wild game, such as venison, can be frozen for up to a year, while it is only recommended to store wild birds for six months.
University of Wyoming Extension released a publication titled, Preserving Food in Wyoming, to help residents better understand the safety and other considerations they should be taking with preservation methods such as canning. The publication was authored by Health Educator Betty Holmes and retired Food and Nutrition Specialist Suzanne Pelican.
“Canning food in Wyoming differs from canning in many other locations because of the high altitudes found in our state,” according to Holmes and Pelican. “There is lower atmospheric pressure at high altitudes, which causes water to boil at a lower temperature. Consequently, altitude adjustments must be made when home canning.”
They continue, “Canning processes must be adjusted for all locations in Wyoming. For boiling-water canning, the processing times must be increased. For pressure canning, the pressure must be increased.”
“Only standard canning jars made of tempered glass are recommended. Commercial jars such as mayonnaise jars are not recommended for use in home canning,” they stress. “These jars may break more easily and they have a narrower sealing surface that can prevent a good seal.”
They continue, “To prevent the risk of botulism, low-acid home canned foods such as meats and vegetables should be boiled before eating. At altitudes below 1,000 feet, boil foods for 10 minutes. Add an additional minute of boiling time for each additional 1,000 feet.”
Callie Hanson is the managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.