We all tend to store food at home for our convenience, although this is not always properly done. Storing food correctly hampers the growth of microorganisms and lengthens its shelf life, preventing nutrient loss and aesthetic damage. In the case of perishable foods, it is indispensable. This is why they must be kept frozen or refrigerated at a temperature range between 0ºC and 7ºC (32ºF and 44ºF).
You should always read the product labels to check the manufacturer’s storage instructions, although sometimes there is no label. This is the case when you buy meat from a retailer. The longest recommended storage time depends on the cut of the piece. Whole cuts last longer, since the surface in contact with the air is smaller than in steaks or ground meat. They should be kept in the coldest part of the fridge and last between 3 and 5 days. You should store them in containers provided with a rack so they are separated from the juices they release, or covered with loose cling film or aluminium foil.
Another essential principle is to avoid cross-contamination, that is, the contamination of some foods by other foods that naturally carry certain microbes, such as meat or fish. To avoid the possibility of direct contact or dripping, raw food should be separated from cooked or ready-to-eat food, and it should also be stored wrapped or in sealed containers.
Fresh fish and seafood are some of the most perishable foods. Seafood should be eaten on the same day it is bought, and fish in two days at the most. It should be stored in the fridge after cleaning it, making sure it is properly separated from other foods to avoid tainting.
Close attention should be paid to boiled ham, smoked fish, anchovies in oil or some pâtés, especially if they are canned, since you might think that they are preserved and do not need to be refrigerated. However, it is possible that they have not been sterilized and should be kept in the fridge. The same thing happens with vacuum-packed products such as salted food.
You should always combine common sense with the essential facts about the properties of specific foods. It is easy to do, and will increase food safety.
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