Food waste is a major concern. Wasted food is a huge challenge to our natural resources, our environment, and our pocketbooks. Between 30 and 40 percent of food in the United States goes uneaten – as much as 20 pounds of food per person per month. That means Americans are throwing out the equivalent of $165 billion in food each year.
Have a friendly competition with your friends or family members to see who can go the longest without any food waste.
A to Z Food Safety Reference Guide
Whether you are a home cook, a professional chef, or a recipe writer, there are some easy steps you can take to help keep your food safe all the way from the grocery store to the kitchen table.
Becoming food safety savvy is as easy as A–B–C! Let your fingers do the walking through this user-friendly reference guide that offers you a wealth of invaluable, up-to-date food safety information. Also included are in-depth sections on the step-by-step journey food travels from the farm to the table; how to prepare and handle food safely; the Fight BAC!TM Campaign’s 4 Simple Steps to Food Safety: Clean, Separate (Combat Cross-Contamination), Cook, and Chill; and fascinating food safety careers!
Helpful Tips and Fun Facts
Each year getting food to U.S. tables requires:
- 80 percent of our freshwater,
- 10 percent of our available energy, and,
- Half of our land.
Organic waste, mostly food, is the second biggest component of landfills, and landfills are the third largest source of methane emissions. Methane is a major factor in global warming because it is so effective at absorbing the sun’s heat, which warms the atmosphere.
How Food Waste and Food Safety Are Connected
The major sources of food waste in the United States are the food industry and consumers. Within the food industry, waste occurs at every step — on the farm and with packers, processors, distributors, and retailers. Some of it is the result of economic forces, some of management problems, and some is caused simply by dumping products that are less than perfect in appearance.
But food waste by consumers may often result from fears about food safety caused by misunderstanding of what food product dating actually means, along with uncertainty about storage of perishable foods.
Understanding Food Product Dating
Except for infant formula, dates on food products are not required by any Federal law or regulation, although some states do have requirements for them. Most of the food dates consumers see are on perishable foods, that is, foods likely to quickly spoil, decay or become unsafe to eat if not kept refrigerated at 40° F or below or frozen at 0° F or below. Perishables include meat, poultry, fish, dairy products, fresh eggs, and fresh fruit and vegetables. Makers/packers of perishable food use food dates to help ensure that consumers buy or use their products while they are at what the maker/packer considers their best quality.
- A Sell by date indicates that a product should not be sold after that date if the buyer is to have it at its best quality.
- A Use by or Best by date is the maker’s estimate of how long a product will keep at its best quality.
- They are quality dates only, not safety dates. If stored properly, a food product should be safe, wholesome and of good quality after its Use by or Best by date.
How to Best to Store Perishables and How Long They Will Keep Safely
The FoodKeeper, developed cooperatively by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Cornell University and the Food Marketing Institute, is a complete guide to how long virtually every food available in the United States will keep in the pantry, in the refrigerator, and in the freezer. The Fresh Fruits section, for example, covers apples (3 weeks in the pantry, 4 – 6 weeks in the fridge, and — only if cooked — 8 months in the freezer) to pomegranates (2 – 5 days pantry, 1 – 3 months fridge, and 10 – 12 months freezer). The Meat, Poultry and Seafood sections are equally complete, and include smoked as well fresh products.
Video: Clean, Separate, Cook, and Chill!
Make sure to keep hot foods hot, and cold foods cold. This information provides safety tips for handling and preparing common foods, and what to avoid and how to make better choices to prevent food poisoning and food waste.
Information and Resources
FoodSafety.gov Charts: Food Safety at a Glance
How long can you store leftovers in the refrigerator? How can you tell when chicken breasts are done? How long does it take to cook a turkey? Check out these charts for fast answers.
Storing Food Charts
Preparing and Cooking Food Charts
Preparing and Cooking Food
One of the basics of food safety is cooking food to its proper temperature. Foods are properly cooked when they are heated for a long enough time and at a high enough temperature to kill the harmful bacteria that cause foodborne illness.
FoodSafety.gov: FoodKeeper App
The FoodKeeper helps you understand food and beverages storage. It will help you maximize the freshness and quality of items. By doing so you will be able to keep items fresh longer than if they were not stored properly. It is also available as a mobile application for Android and Apple devices.
All items are free to view, share, and download.
Public Downloads - Español (Spanish)
When available, we provide all our content with a Spanish version in our public download section. You can find additional material from sources listed in all our articles.
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