Monday, November 22, 2010

Is your food pantry safe?

What do the different dates mean?
  • A "Sell-By" date tells the store how long to display the product for sale. You should buy the product before the date expires.
  • A "Best If Used By (or Before)" date is recommended for the best flavor or quality. It is not a purchase or safety date.
  • A "Use-By" date is the last date recommended for the use of the product while at peak quality. It is also   based on the conditions of handling, storage, preparation and use printed on the label. The date has been determined by the manufacturer of the product.
  • A "Closed or Coded Dates" are packing numbers for use by the manufacturer.

How long should canned foods be kept?
  • High-acid foods, such as tomatoes and other fruit, can be kept up to 18 months.
  • Low-acid foods, such as meat and vegetables, can be kept 2 - 5 years.

Cans must be discarded with the following defects:
  • Prepared-at-home canned foods. Allow only commercially canned food products.
  • Sharp dents.
  • Dents on seams, side or a junction of the side.
  • Swells or bulges.
  • Rust or leakages.
  • An illegible label or the label is missing.

Jars must be discarded if:
  • It has a loose cap or bulged safety seal.
  • Inner seal or tamper resistant tape missing or broken.
  • Containers are leaking, cracked, or chipped.
  • There are missing or illegible labels.
  • There is unusual product separation or discoloration.

Storage conditions:
  • Store canned foods and other shelf-stable products in a cool, dry place.
  • Never store above the stove, under the sink, in a damp garage/basement, or any place that is exposed  to high or low temperature extremes.
  • When dried foods pick up moisture from the storage area, molds and bacteria can grow.
  • Optimal temperature range is cool to moderate 40 - 70 degrees F.
  • Avoid direct sunlight - it can lead to the deterioration of food and packaging.

In order to find out information on food recalls visit:

For a consumer guide to food quality and safe handling visit:

USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service
Tri-County Food Safety Task Force
Utah State University Cooperative Extension
Reference 1. Green R., D.J. Rose, L.V. Ogden, O.A. Pike. "Effects of long term storage on quality of retail-packaged wheat." J.Food Sci. July 2005: Abstract #54H-8.