What are they and how are they stored?

Most of us build our meal plans and grocery lists with certain perishable and non-perishable foods in mind, whether we realize it or not. In order to balance health, taste, and convenience, most home kitchens are equipped with a mixture of both types of foods.

Put simply: some foods can live in your pantry for months without spoiling, while others can only last for a few days, even under ideal refrigerator conditions.

Sometimes it’s obvious when food is perishable – most of us know raw meat is not kept in the kitchen cupboard and canned goods do not need to be refrigerated. But sometimes, you may find yourself looking at an item and thinking Where am I supposed to store this?

Here’s what you need to know about perishable foods compared to non-perishable foods, why this is important, and how to store them safely.

In short, perishable foods are those that spoil or “spoil” quickly if not stored at certain temperatures, while non-perishable foods have a longer shelf life and can be stored at room temperature.

What is perishable food?

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), perishable foods spoil, degrade, or become dangerous to eat unless you refrigerate them at 40°F (4°C) or freeze at 0°F (-17°C) or below (1).

Examples of perishable foods include (1, 2):

Fresh fruits and vegetables are also perishable, as few can be stored for long periods of time at room temperature. Most products will last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks and should be kept in the refrigerator (3).

What is non-perishable food?

Non-perishable or “shelf-stable” foods can be safely stored for extended periods of time at room temperature without spoiling or rotting (4).

Examples of non-perishable foods include:

  • canned food
  • rice
  • macaroni
  • flour
  • Sugar
  • spices
  • oils
  • jerky
  • Processed foods in airtight, uncontaminated containers

You can keep these foods in a cupboard or cupboard.

Keeping perishable foods cold slows the growth of bacteria and keeps food safe to eat for longer (5).

There are two distinct types of bacteria that grow on perishable foods.

nurse The bacteria are tasteless, odorless and invisible, but they can make people sick. Examples of pathogenic bacteria coli bacteriaAnd the salmonellaAnd the Listeria. These bacteria grow rapidly at room temperature, and refrigeration of food slows their growth dramatically (6).

damage The bacteria are safe to eat and do not make you sick, but their presence can worsen the taste, smell and appearance of food, which may be unappetizing. Refrigeration slows the growth of spoilage bacteria, although it continues to grow in the refrigerator (6).

Different bacteria grow at different rates and under different conditions. Food safety standards take into account the characteristics of many different bacteria and microbes (7).

Temperatures for storing perishable foods

Perishable foods should be stored in the refrigerator at 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius) or less, according to Robert Bowitz, Ph.D., MPH, RS, a health worker and advisor to the Board of Internal Health.

Most bacteria that cause foodborne illnesses grow well in temperatures ranging from 41°C to 135°F (5° to 57°C). This temperature range is generally referred to as the “temperature danger zone,” Bowitz told Healthline.

Bacteria grow rapidly in this temperature range.

“if [perishable] “Foods are kept in this temperature danger zone for any length of time, and disease-causing and spoilage organisms will start to grow,” Baweitz said. “Once established, it can swear [and multiply] Within 15 minutes.”

As a general rule, perishable foods such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products, cooked foods, and sliced ​​foods should not be left in the temperature danger zone for more than two hours (8).

The danger zone does not apply to most raw, uncut fruits and vegetables, because they do not grow bacteria as quickly as other perishable foods. However, refrigerating these foods is a good idea because it can slow down spoilage.

When foods are frozen and kept at 0°F (-17°C) and below, the molecules slow down so much that bacteria cannot grow.

However, once the food is thawed, any bacteria present will begin to grow again. And while food can be frozen indefinitely without any safety risks, the quality of frozen food will deteriorate over time due to enzyme activity that slows but does not stop with freezing (9).

Temperature isn’t the only factor that determines whether – or how quickly – food spoils.

“The microbes that can cause disease, or any microbe for that matter, need many vital components and conditions to survive and thrive,” said Bowitz.

These include moisture, the organisms they feed on, time, oxygen (or lack of oxygen, in the case of some microbes), and the appropriate pH level, he added.

Non-perishable foods lack some of these essential ingredients, which means they don’t spoil quickly.

“For example, non-perishable foods, such as crackers, lack moisture; pickling reduces acidity to a level where organisms do not grow; and airtight vacuum packages remove air,” said Bowitz.

It’s a good idea to research how long perishable foods may last.

Here’s how long you can safely store common types of perishable foods in the refrigerator (6):

Other tips include:

  • Every week, go through your fridge and get rid of anything that’s been in there for too long (6).
  • Keep your fridge clean when storing perishable foods. You should wipe up any spills immediately, then rinse the area with hot, soapy water. To eliminate unpleasant odors (which will not affect food safety but may affect taste), keep an open box of baking soda on the shelf of the refrigerator (6).
  • When buying perishable food, make sure it’s cooled within two hours, or one hour if the temperature outside is 90 degrees Fahrenheit (about 32 degrees Celsius) or higher (10).
  • Keep raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs separate from all other foods. Keep these foods on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator to avoid possible contamination (11).

Perishable foods are those that can spoil or grow harmful bacteria when not stored in the refrigerator or freezer.

Different types of perishable foods have different shelf lives, and it’s important to cook or eat perishable foods before they spoil.

It is a good idea to keep track of how long foods can last in the refrigerator and to clean them regularly.

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