Many people turn to canned foods, frozen foods and prepared salads at dinnertime instead of preparing meals from scratch. Use the following tips when purchasing and storing convenience foods to keep items safe for serving:
- Reheat pre-cooked foods such as stuffed chicken breasts and pre-roasted chicken before serving. Eat them on the day of purchase.
- If selecting food from a salad bar, go early or ask for fresh batches of items.
- Ask about proper refrigeration (below 40 degrees Fahrenheit) of items like egg salad, macaroni salad and potato salad.
- Check that containers are well-packed in ice.
- Consume poultry products from the deli counter within three days of purchase. Use red meat deli products within five to seven days of purchase.
- Always reheat hot dogs before eating.
- "At-risk" consumers should consult their medical practitioners for advice on consuming deli meats. People at higher risk of foodborne illness include (pregnant women, older adults, babies and people with weakened immune systems.
- Avoid buying canned goods that are bulging, dented or leaking. Throw away any cans in your pantry showing these signs.
- Store canned goods in a cool, dry place, not above the oven or under the sink.
- Rinse all cans before opening them.
- Use canned goods by the date on the can or within 12 t o18 months of purchasing for high-acid canned goods such as tomatoes, grapefruit, peaches, pears and pickles.
- Low-acid canned goods such as canned meat, corn, spinach, beans and peas should be used withing 2 to 5 years of purchase.
- At the grocery store, select frozen foods from the back of the freezer case; items in the back usually remain the coldest and most frozen.
- At home, keep frozen foods tightly wrapped and write the date on the container. Store them in the freezer at zero degrees Fahrenheit or below.
- It is safe to refreeze thawed foods without cooking them, but you may notice a loss of taste quality due to moisture that is lost through defrosting.
Dried or Cured Meats (Summer Sausages or Jerky)
- Don't buy hanging dried or cured meat if the package is open.
- Refrigerate uneaten items after opening.
- An unopened package of dried meat will keep for up to one year without refrigeration.
Reviewed December 2012