Tag Archives: Food safety

Can you use eggs past the expiration date on the carton?

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According to the Julian calendar, these eggs were packed February 21, 2014 (the 52nd day of the year) and must be sold by March 22nd. After that, I’d give them about a week.

Yes.

The date on the egg carton is usually a “sell by” date (if it says EXP, that’s an expiration date.  Don’t use them after that).  A “sell by” date means that the eggs are good for a few days past the stamped date.  How long?  They are safe to use for 3-5 weeks from the date of purchase, according to the USDA (if stored correctly, and if kept at proper temperatures before storing).

I prefer the Julian date to determine freshness.  The Julian calendar numbers the days of the year 1-365.  The Julian date appears to the right of the “sell by” date on egg cartons.  Click here to download the Julian calendar for 2014.  I use eggs 3-5 weeks from that date, because eggs degrade over time.  The egg whites become looser with age, and though older eggs will usually bake all right when you’re making cookies and such, it’s best to use fresher eggs for omelettes, scrambles, and soufflés.   Cakes like angel food require very fresh eggs as well, because their structure relies on fresh egg whites.

How can you tell if an egg is still safe to eat, aside from the date?  Put the egg into cold water at the bottom of a saucepan.  A fresh egg will lie on its side at the bottom.  If it’s less fresh, but still all right, it will begin to sit up a bit.  If it floats, it’s compost.  Toss it.

Still need more information about eggs?  Check this out.

 

How can I tell if a fruit or vegetable is organic, or has GMOs?

A woman asked me this as she gazed at my bag of pears a couple of weeks ago.

You can tell by looking at the PLU or Product Look-Up code on that sticker with the Kung-fu grip.  Look for a 4 digit number beginning with the number 3 or 4 if the variety was grown conventionally, and the same number with a 9 in front of it if the variety was grown organically.  For example, the PLU code for a banana is 4011, and an organic one is 94011.

Because it’s voluntary, you never really see it, but if the code begins with an 8, it means it’s genetically modified.  Organically-grown produce cannot be genetically modified so if the prospect of GMOs in your food keeps you up at night, go organic.

Those absurdly sticky stickers are good for another thing: Spotting the country where the produce was grown.  If the produce was grown half a world away, it’s an indication that you are eating something that is out of season in your part of the world.  On the other hand, if you are consuming something that came from closer to home, you will likely pay less for it, and it will likely taste better too, because it will have been picked closer to being ripe.

Now go peel off the stupid things and get eating!

Microbes: Nature’s party crashers

It’s getting hot out there – time to don that Kiss the Cook apron and throw a shrimp on the barbie.

I certainly don’t want to spoil the fun with school-marm rules for safe food handling, but nothing says “I care” quite like following a few easy rules that will keep you (and your guests) from some internal bacterial cha-cha. And you do care. I can feel it.
I’m guessing you’d prefer your guests remember you for your Godlike grilling skillssupergriller, to the rescue! and killer potato salad rather than doing the toilet huddle. So let’s get to it:

  • Before you get the party started, make sure that your refrigerator and freezer are in good working order. The heat of the day (as well as dawdling children who hang out in front of the open fridge) can cause temperature fluctuations, so keep a thermometer posted and make sure it stays at 40 degrees or below. The freezer temperature should be at 0 degrees. If you can’t maintain these temperatures, it might be time for a new refrigerator.
  • When you shop, be sure to check the expiration dates for the foods you purchase, and always wrap trays of meat in plastic bags to avoid leaks onto other foods you may be purchasing (or the grocery clerk’s counter).
  • Bring a cooler bag or ice chest filled with refreezable ice. If you bag your own groceries or request that the clerk put the items for the ice chest in one bag you can quickly pop them in and keep cold foods cold until you get home (this will also keep you from wanting to throttle the aforementioned dawdling children or the person in front of you waiting an eternity to turn left out of the parking lot).
  • According to FDA food safety guidelines, raw hamburger meat will only last 1-2 days in the fridge. After that it’s garbage. No, it really is garbage, there aren’t exceptions to this rule (smell and sight are not indicators of bacterial content), so plan ahead or freeze meat and then thaw it in the fridge, never on the counter, before grilling. Steak, and prepared items like egg salad, however, will last 3-5 days in the fridge, and an opened package of hot dogs will last up to 1 week. For more storage guidelines, check here. Continue reading

Food Safety tip: label the leftovers!

Necessary implements for preventing food poisoning from your leftover food:

1 Sharpie pen

1 regular pen

Tiny Post-it notes

Refrigerator and Freezer storage chart from the FDA

Common sense

Can’t remember if it was last Friday or Saturday (or was it Thursday?) when you put that leftover chicken salad in the fridge?

It’s a good idea to break out a Sharpie pen and scrawl the date across the empty ziploc bag before placing food in it, or take a Post-it and tag that takeout container. Yes, yes, you don’t’ have time, you have to get a pen, it’s a phenomenal pain. So is doubling over with diarrhea.

Keep the pens in the utensil drawer (unless you have a small child and don’t care about your walls) with the sticky notes.

And remember, the refrigerator is not a time capsule, so almost no food will stay fresh there for a week. Raw hamburger, for example, needs to be used in 2 days max (if you’re not going to use it get it to the freezer).

If you’re playing a guessing game, don’t go over 3 days for most open containers of cooked (but print the FDA chart for the exceptions).