Friday, November 19, 2004
7 News Features: Dollars Down the Drain
How long will food last in your fridge? Well, if you go by the dates on the package, you may be tossing good food before its time. Tonight, 7's Marilyn Mitzel gives us a crash course in ''freshness 101. ''Here's her special assignment report ''Dollars Down the Drain.''
WSVN---This milk is past its sell by date. Should you drink it? Or pour it down the drain? What about this deli meat? These eggs? This package of lettuce? All have dates to determine freshness. But interpreting those dates can be confusing... And cause people like Mary Hayward to sometime toss good food before its' time.
Mary Hayward: "You don't necessarily know until you look carefully whether its an expiration date or sell by or best by."
We asked dietitian Janice Bissex to give Mary a crash course in food freshness 101.
First up.. this gallon of milk... With a "sell by" date stamped on the carton.
Registered dietitian Janice Newell Bissex: "That doesn't mean you have to use it by then, that's just for retailers so they can help control their stock."
In fact.. after the "sell by" date... You still have seven to ten days to drink it.
Janice: "It's understood that you'll buy the product, you'll take it home, store it or use it."
Next up... This salad mix. Says, "best if used by November 8th."
Janice: "That doesn't mean that you can't consume it after November 8th... It's just for the best quality and freshness you should consume it by then."
The date on this carton of eggs is November 27th. But Janice says they'll be good another 3-to-5 weeks... If stored correctly.
Janice: "It's best to keep eggs in their original cartons for maximum freshness."
Problem is.. since freshness dating isn't required on any products except baby foods... experts say these dates should be considered guidelines rather than hard and fast rules.
Lisa Berger from Berger Food Safety Consultants:"They could put one date down and if the product is not stored properly, the temperatures are too warm, or there's too much humidity, it's not going to last too long."
If left unopened... Nonperishable foods like cereals and crackers can be good for years.
Janice: "Canned foods will typically last 2, 3, 4 years in your pantries."
But once a product is opened, the dates become meaningless. This shredded cheese says its good til January. But open it and you've only got two to three weeks before it starts going bad.
Janice: "You'll start to see a little green growing in there."
So what's the best way to ensure you're serving the freshest food to your family?
Use common sense and don't just rely on the dates.
Lisa: "Check the smell. Check the appearance. If anything doesn't look right don't even taste it."
As for Mary… She says she now has a better appreciation for freshness dating.
Mary: "It's going to take a little longer to do my shopping to really check all these things out."
One way to ensure food stays fresh longer, keep your refrigerator temperature down between 38 and 39 degrees.
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