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SafeFood© Hello – Is FIFO at home?

In my recent blog, I suggested families chat about safe food handling and proper cooking temperatures. These types of conversations do make a difference. My twenty-something aged daughter, who has heard me nagging her about handwashing and other action steps to avoid cross contamination her whole life, recently returned from a national chain coffee house with a tale of her own experience as a SafeFood© Advocate. She had ordered a bagel with cream cheese. The cream cheese was presented in an individual packet, however my daughter noticed the expiration date was November of 2007. So, she returned it to the counter to explain the problem and request another packet. The manager asked another staff member to get a packet out of the storage area and this was given to my daughter. The use by date on this packet was August 2007! At this point my daughter conceded that she would have a plain bagel but I wondered how many other unsuspecting guests were consuming cream cheese from last summer – and this incident certainly raised other questions about stock rotation.

In food procurement classes, the introductory concept of FIFO (First In, First Out) is taught as a way to control inventory and quality. Hopefully not too many future managers miss this day in class. All of us should pay attention to the dates on packages – when purchasing food at retail outlets, grocery stores, checking our own cupboards at home, or those of an elderly relative. The package dates are there for a reason. It is easy to forget about the can of soup purchased three years ago, especially if it gets pushed to the back of the cupboard. The packaged mixes also can be a concern as toxins may form.

True story: Last year, my 21-year old nephew checked into my parents’ weekend place to study for finals, and came across a box of opened Rice Krispies. He thought it was good that the product had been placed in the fridge in a ziplock bag to protect from pests, but he was surprised to see ads about the popular teen-age show (well, popular back in early 1990’s) Saved by the Bell! The fix is easy – simply rotate products when you come home from the grocery store so older products are in front. Do the FIFO!

For leftover foods (and who doesn’t have goodies from the holiday parties in the fridge) the general rule is to toss after 7 days. Or as the old saying goes – If in doubt, throw it out! The price of the discarded food is more than worth the cost of a foodborne illness

Don’t just take items from your cupboard to a food bank. You don’t want to make others sick. If you are not sure about the product shelf life and there is no use by date on the can or package, simply call the 800 phone number on the package and give the product code information – they should be able to identify whether it is still safe to consume. Your Extension office is also a place to go for information. Below is link to many university based Extension offices throughout the country and a link to a publication authored by University of Georgia Extension. This publication has neat charts that tell how long specific types of food should be kept.

http://www.extension.iastate.edu/foodsafety/links/links.cfm?cat=42

University of Georgia http://www.fcs.uga.edu/ext/pubs/fdns/efnep/FDNS-NE-601a.pdf
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Submitted by Catherine Strohbehn, PhD, RD, CFSP January 3, 2008