Frozen food safety
Make sure to get the most out of freezer goods
Frozen foods and previously fresh foods that have been frozen for storage present a distinct advantage for people, particularly the convenience of having meals on demand. But many people are unsure of the safety of freezing, how to do it properly to protect flavor and freshness of an item, and what is the shelf life of a frozen food.
What can be frozen?
Basically any food, except for canned goods and eggs in shells, can be frozen. Another exception is any product that does not recommend freezing as stated on its packaging. While you can freeze just about anything, the texture and the results upon defrosting the food may not be what you desire. Some foods just don’t freeze well, such as cream sauces, soft cheeses, lettuce, etc.
How does it work?
Freezing keeps food safe by slowing the movement of molecules, present. Microoganisms that can cause both food spoilage and foodborne illness actually enter a dormant stage during freezing. Freezing will preserve food, but it will not destroy any microorganisms present. Once the food is thawed, these bacteria, yeasts and mold will become active once again. Handle thawed foods as you would perishable foods. It’s important to note that thorough cooking is the only safe way to destroy foodborne organisms.
Meats purchased at the store can be frozen in their supermarket packaging, but the packages are permeable — letting in air. Air is what dries out food and contributes to freezer burn. Freezer burn is not harmful but can affect the flavor and texture of foods once thawed. Airtight foil wrapping, containers and freezer bags should be used for long-term frozen food storage.
Frozen foods can remain safe to eat indefinitely. The only thing long-term freezing may contribute to is a compromise of taste, color or texture — especially if the food is improperly wrapped. Here are some guidelines for food storage for optimum taste: Casseroles: 2 to 3 months Hot Dogs: 1 to 2 months Meat, uncooked roasts and steaks: 4 to 12 months
Meat, uncooked ground: to 4 months
Poultry, uncooked whole: 12 months
Poultry, uncooked parts: months
Soups and stews: months
2 to 3
Freezing and defrosting go hand in hand where food is concerned. It’s important to follow safe defrosting procedures to ensure foodborne illnesses don’t occur.
The best places to defrost food are in the refrigerator or in a bowl of cold water/cold running water. Do not defrost food on a countertop.
Many microwave oven models also have defrost setting, allowing you to defrost foods quickly.