The Freezer, Fridge and Food Safety

Freezer and Food Safety

Since I don’t like to go grocery shopping and it’s physically taxing on me to do so (thanks MS), I try to limit my trips to the grocery store. I usually grocery shop once or twice a month. For the last few years, I have been purchasing certain items in bulk from a local warehouse club. I shop at BJ’s because they accept manufacturer’s coupons plus they allow you to stack a BJ’s coupon with a manufacturer’s coupon. This can make for some awesome savings. Anyway, I have always been uncertain about what bulk items I could store in the freezer and what items would not freeze well. For instance, many people say they buy eggs in bulk and then freeze them. That’s a great idea but I want to know if it’s safe to do this….meaning, will any nasty bacteria come back to haunt me after thawing those eggs out. After doing some research, here’s what I’ve learned.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), you can freeze just about any food. Exceptions to this are canned food or eggs in shells. You can however freeze canned food if it is removed from the can and placed in an appropriate storage container. Frozen food stored at 0 degrees Fahrenheit will always be safe as it prevents the growth of microorganisms that can cause food spoilage and illness (think food poisoning).

Food Safety

It is safe to freeze meat or poultry directly in it’s original packaging but if you are planning on long-term storage, wrapping the packages in a plastic wrap will help maintain the quality of the food and prevent freezer burn. Freezer burn is what happens when food becomes dry in certain spots because air has come into contact with the food. It is best to cut freezer-burned spots out before or after cooking the food. Heavily freezer-burned foods should be thrown away for quality and safety purposes. If a frozen food smells rancid or has an odor, discard it immediately.

When thawing foods out, there are three safe methods: in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave. Never thaw foods out on the kitchen counter as bacteria may grow during this process (I told ya Grandma!!). If you thaw food out properly and then decide you don’t want to cook it, it can be refrozen although there may be a loss of quality since the food loses moisture during the thawing process.

Leftovers should be frozen within 3-4 days. Do not refreeze any foods left outside the refrigerator longer than 2 hours or 1 hour in temperatures above 90 °F. If you purchase previously frozen meat, poultry or fish at a retail store, you can refreeze if it has been handled properly.

If there is a power outage, the freezer fails, or if the freezer door has been left ajar by mistake, the food may still be safe to use if ice crystals remain. A freezer full of food will usually keep for about 2 days if the door is kept shut and a half-full freezer will last about a day.

Earlier I stated that the USDA does not recommend freezing canned foods. Well, what happens if it’s done accidentally? Cans frozen accidentally, such as those left in a car or basement in sub-zero temperatures, can present health problems. If the cans are merely swollen — and you are sure the swelling was caused by freezing — the cans may still be usable. Let the can thaw in the refrigerator before opening. If the product doesn’t look and/or smell normal, throw it out. DO NOT TASTE IT! If the seams have rusted or burst, wrap the can in a plastic bag and throw it out immediately. Do not feed it to your pets as it can make them sick.

Disclosure: This post features information found on the USDA website. I really do shop at BJ’s. I was not compensated in any way to write this post. My only affiliation with BJ’s is that I hold a membership card there. Any opinions expressed are my own.

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