Food Safety: Storing

Overview

Storing food promptly and correctly can help prevent food poisoning. Here are some tips.

  • Store at safe temperatures.

    Set your refrigerator at or below 40°F (4°C) and your freezer at or below 0°F (-18°C).

  • Don't leave food out too long.

    Refrigerate or freeze meat, poultry, eggs, fish, shellfish, ready-to-eat foods, and leftovers within 2 hours or sooner. Refrigerate within 1 hour if the temperature outdoors is above 90°F (32°C). (This is often the case during summer picnics.)

  • Don't store meats and other foods in the refrigerator for too long.
    • Don't keep fresh poultry, fish, or ground meats in the refrigerator for more than 2 days. Don't keep fresh beef, veal, lamb, or pork in the refrigerator more than 3 to 5 days. Cook or freeze them.
    • Other foods may have a longer storage time in the refrigerator. Eggs can be stored for 3 to 5 weeks. Processed and brick cheese can be stored for 3 to 4 weeks. But don't store opened lunch meats for more than 3 to 5 days.
  • Store leftovers safely.

    Divide large amounts of leftovers into shallow containers for quicker cooling. Use refrigerated leftovers within 3 to 4 days.

  • Don't pack your refrigerator with food.

    Cool air must circulate to keep food safe.

  • Separate cooked and raw food.

    Never store cooked or ready-to-eat food below raw food in the refrigerator.

  • Use safe containers.

    Always store food in leak-proof, clean containers with tight-fitting lids.

  • Store canned foods safely.

    In general, high-acid canned food such as tomatoes, grapefruit, and pineapple can be stored in a cupboard for 12 to 18 months. In general, low-acid canned food such as meat, poultry, fish, and most vegetables can be stored for 2 to 5 years. But the can must be in good condition and stored in a cool, clean, dry place.

  • Check cans for damage.

    Do not keep canned food if the cans are dented, leaking, bulging, or rusting.

Credits

Current as of: February 9, 2022

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine

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