This information has been reviewed and adapted for use in South Carolina by P.H. Schmutz, Food Safety Specialist, and E.H. Hoyle, Extension Food Safety Specialist, Clemson University. (New 05/99.)
Storage does not improve the quality of any food. The quality of a food will also not decrease significantly during storage as long as the food is stored properly and used within the recommended time frame.
Quality is not the same as safety. A poor-quality food may be safe, such as stale cereal, overripe fruit or soured pasteurized milk. An unsafe food may have good quality in terms of appearance and taste but have a high (unsafe) bacterial count. For example, improperly canned food may contain Clostridium botulinum (which causes botulism) thus making it unsafe. Or cooked chicken may be placed on a plate that held the raw chicken and become contaminated. The goal of home food storage is to provide both safe and high-quality foods.
Maintaining a food's quality depends on several factors: the quality of the raw product, the procedures used during processing, the way the food is stored and the length of storage. For example, fresh-picked corn will store better than corn that has been in the market for a few days; a tightly folded inside cereal box liner will prevent a ready-to-eat cereal from becoming limp. The recommended storage time takes these factors into consideration.
Since bacteria frequently get into food through careless food handling, keep everything - hands, pantry, shelves and storage containers - clean.
To help assure quality, some products have "open dates" on the package. Product dating is optional on most products. Dates may also be "coded" by the manufacturer and only understood by them.
Sell-by Date: This is the last recommended day of sale. The date allows for home storage and use. You will find the date after the statement, "Sell by (a date)." Breads and baked goods may have "sell-by dates."
Use-by Date: Tells how long the product will retain top quality after you buy it. You will find this date after the statement, "Use by." Some packaged goods have "use-by dates."
Expiration Date: This is the last day the product should be used or eaten. You may find this date after the statement, "Do not use after (date)." Yeast and baking powder have "expiration dates. "
Pack Date: Canned or packaged foods may have dates, which tell you when the product was processed. This does not tell you how long the food will be good.
These are guidelines; if a food is not properly handled, its storage life will be shortened. Follow these tips for purchasing top-quality foods that have been handled safely.
For best results in maintaining product quality practice the rule: FIRST IN, FIRST OUT. This means you use the oldest products first and the newest products later. A good practice in the home is to place the newly purchased products in back of the same products already on the shelf. It may help to write purchase dates on products without "open dates" on the package. Follow recommended storage times for the refrigerator, freezer and pantry (See the chart on following pages.)
|Bread & Cakes
Store breads & cakes at room temperature. Storing in the refrigerator promotes staling. Use within 3-7 days or freeze.
|Bread Crumbs||4 months|
|Brown Rice||6 months|
|Cornmeal and hominy grits||12 months|
|Honey and syrups||1 year|
|Nonfat dry milk||1 year|
|Olive oil||6 months|
|Sugar, brown or powdered||18 months|
|Vegetable oil||1 year|
|Wheat germ (unopened)||8-12 months|
|White flower||10-15 months|
|Whole wheat flour||3 months (best in refrigerator or freezer)|
|Wild rice||6 months|
|Baking mix (biscuit, cake)||6 months|
|Soup mix (dry)||12 months|
|Dried apricots||3 months (refrigerate after opening)|
|Dried prunes, raisins||9 months (refrigerate after opening)|
|Dried peas and beans||1 year|
|Herbs, Spices & Condiments|
|Salt, cream of tarter||indefinitely|
|Ground spices and herbs||2-3 years|
|Whole spices||4-5 years|
|Tabasco, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce||30 months|
|Beverages (sealed, unopened)|
|Bottled water||2-5 years|
|Soft drinks||8 months|
|Chocolate chips, cocoa||18 months|
|Coffee (canned)||12 months|
|Nuts (unshelled)||6-12 months|
|Peanut butter||3-4 months (best refrigerated)|
|Canned fruits, juices, tomatoes, pickles||12-18 months|
|Canned meats and vegetables||2-5 years|
|Home-canned foods||1 year|
|Onions||1-3 month at room temperature or below|
|Potatoes||1-3 months at 45-50 °F
1 week at room temperature
|Squash, hard-rind||1-3 months at 60 °F
1 week at room temperature
|Sweet potatoes||1-3 months at 60 °F
1 week at room temperature
Minch, Daryl L., (February 1994.) Home Storage of Foods Part I: Refrigerator and Freezer, and Part II: Pantry. Rutgers Cooperative Extension, State University of New Jersey. http://njaes.rutgers.edu/pubs/publication.asp?pid=FS274
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This information is supplied with the understanding that no discrimination is intended and no endorsement of brand names or registered trademarks by the Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service is implied, nor is any discrimination intended by the exclusion of products or manufacturers not named. All recommendations are for South Carolina conditions and may not apply to other areas. Use pesticides only according to the directions on the label. All recommendations for pesticide use are for South Carolina only and were legal at the time of publication, but the status of registration and use patterns are subject to change by action of state and federal regulatory agencies. Follow all directions, precautions and restrictions that are listed.