- Food that is properly frozen and cooked is safe. Food that is properly handled and stored in the freezer at 0° F (-18° C) will remain safe. While freezing does not kill most bacteria, it does stop bacteria from growing. Though food will be safe indefinitely at 0° F, quality will decrease the longer the food is in the freezer. Tenderness, flavor, aroma, juiciness, and color can all be affected. Leftovers should be stored in tight containers. With commercially frozen foods, it’s important to follow the cooking instructions on the package to assure safety.
- Freezing does not reduce nutrients. There is little change in a food’s protein value during freezing.
- Freezer burn does not mean food is unsafe. Freezer burn is a food-quality issue, not a food safety issue. It appears as grayish-brown leathery spots on frozen food. It can occur when food is not securely wrapped in air-tight packaging, and causes dry spots in foods.
- Refrigerator/freezer thermometers should be monitored. Refrigerator/freezer thermometers may be purchased in the housewares section of department, appliance, culinary, and grocery stores. Place one in your refrigerator and one in your freezer, in the front in an easy-to-read location. Check the temperature regularly—at least once a week.
- Marinate food in the refrigerator. Bacteria can multiply rapidly in foods left to marinate at room temperature. Also, never reuse marinating liquid as a sauce unless you bring it to a rapid boil first.
- Clean the refrigerator regularly and wipe spills immediately. This helps reduce the growth of Listeriabacteria and prevents drips from thawing meat that can allow bacteria from one food to spread to another. Clean the fridge out frequently.
- Keep foods covered. Store refrigerated foods in covered containers or sealed storage bags, and check leftovers daily for spoilage. Store eggs in their carton in the refrigerator itself rather than on the door, where the temperature is warmer.
- Check expiration dates. A “use by” date means that the manufacturer recommends using the product by this date for the best flavor or quality. The date is not a food safety date. At some point after the use-by date, a product may change in taste, color, texture, or nutrient content, but, the product may be wholesome and safe long after that date. If you’re not sure or if the food looks questionable, throw it out.
- The exception to this is infant formula. Infant formula and some baby foods are unique in that they must be used by the use-by date that appears on the package.
This article appears on FDA’s Consumer Update page, which features the latest on all FDA-regulated products.