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Food Safety: Freezing Food Correctly

Jul 29, 2010

Food safety must be a paramount concern when you store food in the freezer. If overlooked, it compromises your health and that of your family. Food stored in the freezer is kept safe by the extremely low temperatures. This slows the activity of molecules and causes microbes to become dormant. It is often assumed that whatever is stored in the freezer is safe. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Certain foods may have stayed too long in the freezer. To consume such foods is likely to induce food-related illnesses.

Freeze Time for Food Safety

  • Stewed meat - 3 months
  • Roasted meat - 4 to 6 months
  • Cooked poultry - 1 month
  • Poultry portions, uncooked - 3 months
  • Raw whole poultry - 6 months
  • Uncooked meat, poultry and wild game - 12 months
  • Processed meats such as sausages, hotdogs, ham, bacon and salami - 2 months
  • Ground and organ meats - 4 months
  • Seafood - 3 months
  • Soups and casseroles - 2 to 3 months
  • Bread - 3 months
  • Fruits and vegetables - 12 months
  • Butter, margarine and hard cheese - 6 to 9 months
  • Soft cheese and spreads - 1 month
  • Ice cream and milk - 1 month

Foods Unsuitable for Freezer

It is best not to freeze canned foods. However, once food is removed from the can, it can be frozen in an alternative container. Eggs shouldn’t be frozen. Fresh vegetables that have high water content don’t freeze well. If frozen, the texture gets spoiled. It is best to store these in the refrigerator. Starchy vegetables, however, can be safely frozen. Items like soft cream and mayonnaise do not freeze well. Food items that contain cream or custard also don’t freeze well. These curdle when frozen, which spoils the food. Whatever kinds of food that you choose to freeze, it is important that food is properly packaged.

Preparation of Food for Freezer

The quality of food is greatly sustained if it is properly packaged before it is frozen. This also prevents freezer burn, which dries some parts of the food. Allow all foods and liquids to cool before you package and freeze them. This helps to preserve the color, quality and flavor of food. You need not rinse meat and poultry. These foods can be frozen in their original packaging. However, this should only be for short-term. The permeability of the food wrap tends to erode quality over time.

For long-term storage, it is best to secure such food with an additional wrap over the original one. It helps if you blanch or briefly steam vegetables before you freeze them. This immobilizes enzyme activity. Materials used to pack must be leak and moisture proof. Rigid containers made of glass, aluminum or plastic are suitable. Plastic bags and food wraps can also be used. Food packed in vacuum packages can be stored as it is. Should the package open while in the freezer, you simply have to re-wrap.

Leave an allowance when you package because food expands when frozen. If space is inadequate, the packages will break open. Each package should be clearly labeled. Details should include name of food, date packaged and form of food. For best storage results, maintain the freezer temperature at 00F.

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