The average household has food in the refrigerator and freezer that should be thrown out. People think that just because food is in the refrigerator or freezer, it is always safe to eat. Although freezing does not kill bacteria, it slows its growth significantly.
Expiration dates on frozen foods are usually a good guide to the best quality rather than spoilage. Prolonged freezing can dry foods, cause ice crystals, and other common characteristics of "freezer burn." Opened packages can expose food to bacteria, air, and rogue smells. Once opened, frozen foods should only be kept 1 to 2 months in the freezer. However, some people are known to keep foods in their freezer for a year or longer. Packaged frozen foods that have remained unopened should stay palatable for up to three months but not longer. Therefore, you should clean out your refrigerator and freezer on a regular basis.
One in six Americans get food poisoning every year, and over 100,000 of them end up in the hospital. The USDA offers a comprehensive chart of how long to keep foods in the refrigerator or freezer. You will be very surprised that you have been kaeeping foods much longer than you should. As soon as you see the chart, you might head straight to your refrigerator and freezer and began tossing foods out. Then make sure it's 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below in the refrigerator and zero degrees Fahrenheit or below in the freezer.
All raw meat, poultry, and seafood should be placed in sealed containers or sealed plastic bags and placed on the bottom shelf in the fridge, to ensure that their juices don't drip onto other food and cause cross-contamination. Eggs should stay in their original carton in the body of the refrigerator and not in the egg cups in the door. Any fruit or vegetables that have been cut, peeled, or cooked need to be refrigerated within two hours of use. Otherwise, they should be thrown out. The same rule applies to leftovers, which should also be kept in clean, shallow, covered containers.
This may sound like a lot of work at first, but using a marker to label the date on an item before refrigerating or freezing it will help you in the long run. Another trick is to put new items in the back of the fridge or freezer and older ones in the front, so you'll use the older food first.