Did you know you can boost your health simply by cleaning out your fridge? In addition to wiping it down weekly with a weak cleaning solution to sanitize, there are certain foods that you should throw away that could pose a danger to your health.
Storing food improperly can cause food poisoning and other food-borne illnesses which affects about 48 million people in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Don’t fall prey to dangerous foods lurking (or growing!) in your fridge. Here are some rules about four foods and when you should toss them.
The recommended shelf time for leftovers is shorter than you might think. Whether it’s chicken nuggets from McDonalds or that steak from the fancy restaurant, three to four days is the maximum amount of time you’ll want to hang on to your take-away meals, according to foodsafety.gov. Eating leftovers that have been in the fridge for longer not only changes taste but can increase your risk of getting a food-borne illness.
Tip: Put a date on your leftovers and any food packages once you open them. The sniff test, which can sometimes tell you if a food has gone bad, is definitely not foolproof. You might be surprised to learn that once packages are opened, the shelf life is quite short. A package of hot dogs or bacon, once opened, should be used within 7 days. Click here for info on storage times for other popular foods.
The Environmental Working Group, an environmental health research and advocacy organization, ranks strawberries as the number two most contaminated fruit they’ve tested, which means that the pesticides sprayed on them tend to stay on them (apples are number 1). The good news is that strawberries are in season during the summer, so it’s fairly easy to find organic varieties at the grocery store or the farmers market. As for fall and winter, opt for eating fruit that’s in season over strawberries. You can find a local in-season guide here.
If you pick up strawberries at the grocery store, don’t wash them until you’re ready to eat them since moisture will speed up spoilage time. Keep them in the crisper drawer of your fridge packaged in a closed plastic or glass container. The shelf life of your strawberries depends on when they were first picked, but the maximum fridge life, even in the best conditions, is about a week. If you’re not planning on using them for awhile, just put them in a freezer bag and pop them in the freezer! Click here for more storage tips and information on how to select the best strawberries at the grocery store.
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Last night’s barbecue dinner
We all love to cook outdoors when the weather is warm, but remember that the foods are often left out for longer periods of time. The rule of thumb: Any food that’s out more than two hours should be trashed rather than transported into the fridge. In addition, check that your fridge is below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. If your fridge is at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or above, consider it an open invitation for bacteria to start multiplying, says Registered Dietitian and Certified Dietitian/Nutritionist, Thérèse Bonanni.
Did you know that tossing wet greens in the fridge can cause them to spoil faster? That’s because bacteria thrives in moisture. So if you see any slimy salad greens or asparagus, toss it immediately (even if they don’t smell). Instead of cleaning fruits and vegetables right away, store them and wash right before cooking or eating them. This will maintain the quality of your vegetables for longer in addition to decreasing their spoilage potential.
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Jessica DeCostole, a health and nutrition writer, contributes regularly to KnowMore.tv. Her articles also appear in Redbook and Prevention.