DID YOU KNOW?????  Food Safety

Food Dates:  In an effort to reduce food waste, it is important that consumers understand that the dates applied to food are for quality and NOT for safety.  Food products are safe to consume past the date on the label, and regardless of the date, consumers should evaluate the quality of the food product prior to its consumption.

  • Except for infant formula, product dating is not required by Federal regulations.
  • Manufacturers provide dating to help consumers and retailers decide when food is of best quality.
  • A “Best if Used By/Before” indicates when a product will be of best flavor or quality. IT IS NOT A PURCHASE OR SAFETY DATE.
  • A “Sell-By” date tells the store how long to display the product for sale for inventory management. IT IS NOT A SAFETY DATE.
  • A “Use-By” date is the last date recommended for the use of the product while at peak quality. IT IS NOT A SAFETY DATE EXCEPT FOR INFANT FORMULA.
  • Foods not exhibiting signs of spoilage should be wholesome and may be sold, purchased, donated and consumed beyond the labeled “Best if Used By” date.
  • Spoiled foods will develop an off odor, flavor or texture – DO NOT EAT.
  • A change in the color of meat or poultry is NOT an indicator of spoilage. It should also show signs of spoilage that include an off odor, be sticky or tacky to the touch, or it may be slimy. If meat has developed these characteristics, it should NOT be used.

The Color of Meat:

  • Does a change in color indicate spoilage?   Color changes are normal for fresh product.  With spoilage there can be a change in color-often a fading or darkening.  In addition to the color change, the meat or poultry will have an off odor, be sticky or tacky to the touch, or it may be slimy.  If meat has developed these characteristics, it should not be used.
  • If the color of meat and poultry changes while frozen, is it safe? Color changes, while meat and poultry are frozen, occur just as they do in the refrigerator.  Fading and darkening, for example, do not affect their safety.
  • What are the white dried patches on frozen meat and poultry? The white patches indicate freezer burn.  The product remains safe to eat, but the areas with freezer burn will be dried out and tasteless and can be trimmed away if desired.
  • When displayed at the grocery store, why is some meat bright red and other meat very dark in color? Optimum surface color of fresh meat (i.e., cherry red for beef; dark cherry red for lamb; grayish pink for pork; and pale pink for veal) is highly unstable and short lived.  When meat is fresh and protected from contact with air (such as in vacuum packages), it has a purple red color that comes from myoglobin, one of two key pigments responsible for the color of meat.  When exposed to air, myoglobin forms the pigment, oxymyoglobin, which gives meat a pleasingly cherry red color.  The use of a plastic wrap that allows oxygen to pass through it helps ensure that the cut meats will retain this bright red color.  However, exposure to store lighting as well as the continued contact of myoglobin and oxymyoglobin with oxygen leads to the formation of metmyoglobin, a pigment that turns meat brownish red.  This color change alone does not mean the product is spoiled.
  • Why is pre-packaged ground beef red on the outside and sometimes grayish brown on the inside? These color differences do not indicate that the meat is spoiled or old.  Oxygen from the air reacts with meat pigments to form a bright red color which is usually seen on the surface of ground beef purchased in the supermarket.  The interior of the meat may be grayish brown due to the lack of oxygen penetrating below the surface.
  • A beef roast has darkened in the refrigerator, is it safe? YES
  • Can cooked ground beef still be pink inside? YES, ground beef can be pink inside after it is safely cooked.  Because doneness and safety cannot be judged by color, it is very important to use a food thermometer when cooking ground beef to an internal temperature of 155F for 15 seconds.

The Color of Poultry:

  • What is the usual color of raw poultry? Raw poultry can vary from a bluish-white to yellow.  All of these colors are normal and are a direct result of breed, exercise, age, and/or diet.
  • What causes dark bones in cooked poultry? Darkening of bones and meat around the bones occurs primarily in young (6-8 weeks) broiler-fryer chickens. Since the bones have not calcified or hardened completely, pigment from the bone marrow seeps through the bones and into the surrounding area.  Freezing can also contribute to this darkening.  This is a cosmetic issue not a safety one.  The meat is safe to eat when all parts have reached a safe minimum internal temperature of 165F for 15 seconds on a food thermometer.
  • If fully cooked smoked poultry is pink, is it safe? Poultry grilled or smoked outdoors can be pink, even when all parts have attained temperatures well above 165F as measured with a food thermometer.  There may be a pink colored rim about one half inch wide around the outside of the cooked product.

Information provided by USDA Food Safety & Inspection Service, https://www.fsis.usda.gov & 2013 FDA Food CodeCall any food complaints to:  East Side Health District 618-271-8722 ext. 538

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