How Long Can That Meat Keep?

How Long Can That Meat Keep?
SEATTLE - Food poisoning is a serious problem. It's estimated there are 76 million cases of food poisoning each year in the U.S. Most times the unpleasant symptoms only last a day or two.

But food poisoning can be very serious, especially for someone who is the elderly or who has a compromised immune system. In fact according to the Centers for Disease Control food-borne illnesses kill about 5,000 people each year. So this is important stuff!

Q: HOW LONG IS IT SAFE TO KEEP MEAT AND POULTRY IN THE FREEZER?

A: According to the USDA, meat and poultry -- whether raw or cooked -- can be safely frozen "indefinitely." The problem with keeping any food frozen too long is quality; it may develop freezer burn. It's still safe to eat; it just might not look or taste as good. It can also develop an odor.

Q: HOW LONG CAN YOU KEEP RAW MEAT IN THE REFRIGERATOR BEFORE COOKING?

A: When it comes to safely storing raw meat or poultry in the refrigerator the clock is ticking, because refrigeration does not stop bacteria growth; it only slows it. So you have about 3 to 4 days after purchase to use that meat.

Q: HOW LONG CAN YOU KEEP RAW POULTRY IN THE FRIDGE BEFORE COOKING?

A: The USDA's food safety guidelines say to cook raw chicken within 1 to 2 days of purchase.

Q: HOW LONG CAN YOU KEEP COOKED CHICKEN OR MEAT IN THE FRIDGE?

A: When you cook something you extend the storage time, because the cooking kills most of the bacteria that can hurt you. But cooked food won't keep forever. You should use that cooked meat or chicken that’s in the refrigerator in about 3 to 4 days.

Q: CAN MEAT OR CHICKEN THAT'S BEEN FROZEN AND THAWED BE RE-FROZEN?

A: Yes, if it was thawed properly. And that means in the fridge or in the microwave just before cooking. You should never thaw things by putting them in the sink or on a counter-top at room temperature. That will allow bacteria to grow.

Q: IS IT SAFER TO USE A WOODEN OR PLASTIC CUTTING BOARD?

A: Research shows that nonporous surfaces, such as plastic, marble and tempered glass, are easier to clean than wood. But the USDA says it really doesn't matter all that much what you use, as long as you do a good job of cleaning it. You should clean the board with hot soapy water or put it in the dishwasher. You should also disinfect it every so often with a mild solution of bleach and water (1 teaspoon of chlorine bleach in a quart of water.).

Q: HOW LONG CAN YOU KEEP A CUTTING BOARD BEFORE YOU SHOULD CHUCK IT AND GET A NEW ONE?

A: You should replace the board once it has a lot of hard to hard-to-clean grooves. By the way, even plastic boards wear out over time.

For More Information:

Food Safety: Food Storage, Preparation & Handling

USDA Meat & Poultry Hotline