The USDA has developed an app for your phone to help you keep your food fresh. It’s called the FoodKeeper app. It provides advice on how to store foods and beverages and minimize food waste. It’s available for Android and Apple devices.
In 2016, the government updated the app to include more than 400 food and beverages items available in an online data feed. Every time you open the app, it will check the data feed for updates. If you don’t have an Android or Apple dev ice, you can find this information at FSIS.gov and at Data.gov. The data feed is downloadable.
The feed has specific storage and cooking guidelines and information on items such as baby food, dairy products, egg, meats, poultry, produce, and seafood. Storage timelines for the refrigerator, freezer, and pantry are also included.
Food waste is a serious issue in this country and around the world. Experts estimate that about 40% of the food purchased in the U.S. is thrown away when it is still safe to eat. That costs the typical American family at least $590 every year, which adds up to $165,000,000,000 among all households in this country. More than 97% of that discarded food ends up in the landfill. That waste breaks down anaerobically and produces methane, which is a potent greenhouse gas, exacerbating the problems of climate change.
It’s a good idea to periodically refresh your memory about the meaning of use by or “best by” dates. Those dates do not mean that the food is no longer safe to eat; they generally mean that the food starts to lose quality then. Most consumers are confused by the exact meaning of these phrases.
There is no national standard for those dates (except for infant formula); the FDA lets the manufacturer decide when food will lose quality and set their own dates. In December 2016, the USDA issued revised guidance on food product labeling. The guidance now states that manufacturers should put the phrase “best if used by” on product packages to help consumers understand that date indicates potential loss of quality instead of potential issues with food safety.