Healthy living resolutions on your list for 2013? Set the stage by cleaning out your food storage areas starting with the pantry and kitchen cupboards.
First on your list is checking your storage conditions. Food stored on the shelf are particularly vulnerable to moisture, temperature, and sunlight. An ideal storage spot has low moisture, temperatures between 40 and 70 degrees, and darkness. Food should also be off the ground. Make sure there is no food spills in the storage area which could encourage insects or rodents.
When to toss – pantry and kitchen cupboards
When looking at store-bought items, check for dents and then look for the date. If a can is dented, swollen, rusty, or shows signs of leakage, toss it immediately. If the can appears to be okay, look for a use-by date which is the last date to eat the food at peak quality. The Best if Used By date simply refers to the best flavor or quality. There are no safety dates.
High-acid storebought foods like tomatoes, grapefruit, and pineapple, can usually be stored for 12 to 18 months. However, tomatoes may have a shorter storage time as growers breed out the acidity to make them more palatable. Low acid foods have a longer storage time – 2 to 5 years for meat, poultry, fish, and most vegetables.
Home canned foods generally have a shelf life of one year and should be used before 2 years.Check seals for leakage. Also look at the contents of the jar. If you see a white film on the food, then toss immediately. Make sure all home canned foods have a date label. When in doubt, throw it out. Re-arrange the remaining home canned foods with the oldest labeled jars in the front, and the newer ones in the back.
Check flour, cereal, beans, nuts, chocolate, and rice containers for signs of insect or rodent infestation.Toss in a sealed bag if the food appears to be infested. Thoroughly clean the shelf and containers around the infested food with a vacuum. Cleaning with detergents or ammonia will not remove the insect infestation though it will sanitize the area if you have a rodent infestation. Check the tips in the CDC fact sheet below to prevent further rodent infestations.
Next up on Friday – cleaning out the freezer
Pantry Food Storage Fact Sheet (PDF) from The Ohio State University Extension
CDC: Cleaning up rodent food sources and nesting sites
Canned Goods from The Utah State University Cooperative Extension
Insect Pests of Stored Foods (PDF) from The Cooperative Extension Service, Iowa State University of Science and Technology
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