Your Expiration Date Labels Are About to Get a Lot Smarter


This transparent patch can detect harmful bacteria in food.

If you’ve ever sniffed a carton of milk or stared at a piece of chicken in the fridge trying to determine if it’s safe to eat—we have good news for you. After all, foodborne bacteria result in around 600 million illnesses yearly, 420 thousand of them leading to death, according to the World Health Organization.

Sure, manufacturers offer "best by" and expiration dates to give consumers a ballpark idea of when to toss their food, but they're only estimates. Now there’s something even better.

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A team of researchers at McMaster University developed a transparent patch that can be added to food packaging to test for harmful bacteria, such as E. coli and Salmonella. The research is published in ACS Nano, and the results have the team convinced the patch could be an accurate and cheap alternative to estimated dates stamps on packaged foods.

"In the future, if you go to a store and you want to be sure the meat you're buying is safe at any point before you use it, you'll have a much more reliable way than the expiration date," says lead author Hanie Yousefi, a graduate student and research assistant in McMaster's Faculty of Engineering.

One side of the clear rectangle contains droplets of molecules that can detect for certain bacteria. When the sensor comes in contact with a food product, a handheld device like a smartphone can scan the package to indicate if there is bacteria present. The sensor has no negative effect on the food itself.

Though the primary potential use for the product is for preventing foodborne illness, researchers say the sensor could also be used to test bandages for infections in wounds or to determine if hospital equipment is sterile.


Can you still eat canned food after the ➾st by' date? Here's what you should know

When it comes to canned foods — and a lot of foods in general — it turns out many consumers aren't always sure how to decode those "best by" or "sell by" dates. These dates are not actually mandated by the Food and Drug Administration and, unless it’s on infant formula, the dates on packages are voluntarily provided by the manufacturers. Stores can even sell products that are weeks or months past their labeled dates.

With spring just around the corner, it's probably a good idea to go through your pantry and do a little decluttering. But which canned items can stay and what should be tossed?

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TODAY Food reached out to the Canned Food Alliance and its spokesperson pointed us to the group's basic guide referencing expiration dates.

According to the alliance, canned food (when kept at a relatively stable temperature) will remain at peak quality for at least two years after it's been processed. The guidelines note that while food in cans "retains its safety and nutritional value well beyond two years," its color and texture may change after that time. Many factors affect how long a food will stay edible in the can, but food kept at "moderate temperatures (75 degrees or below)" may last indefinitely.

Does that mean you should be eating food out of a can found on the Titanic? Probably not.

Ron Giles, quality assurance director of Goya Foods, Inc., told TODAY that the canned food industry prefers to use “best by” dates as opposed to expiration dates.

“Canned foods do not expire on a certain date,” explained Giles. “One cannot say that the canned food is good on one day and not good the next day. Canned foods are under a vacuum. The absence of oxygen helps to extend the shelf life of canned foods.”

A best by date, on the other hand, indicates when a consumer may notice a decrease in quality. For example, the food's color, texture or flavor may not be optimal. Registered dietician Bonnie Taub-Dix, author of "Read It Before You Eat It," said there may also be a decrease in nutritional value once a food passes that date.

But even then, it takes years for that to happen. Goya canned beans, for example, have a best by date of three to five years from the day of production. Goya — which is one of the world's largest food-processing companies — determines a product’s shelf life by taking into account several factors. In addition to looking at industry standards and doing internal evaluations, the company uses insight from packaging material suppliers.

So which older canned food is safer to eat? In general, foods that are more acidic will actually expire sooner, while foods with a more basic pH level will last longer than most canned vegetables and fruits. This means good old Spam will likely outlive canned peaches.

But storage quality is really the biggest determinant of canned food safety.

“When I think ‘zombie apocalypse bunker,’ I think canned food,” said Emily Peterson, a chef instructor at New York City's Institute of Culinary Education. “Can something meant to feed us ‘forever’ in case of emergency ever really expire?” Peterson tells her student to focus on the can itself, not just dates on a label.

“I’m more concerned about the state of the can itself. Is it swollen? That’s a definite no-go. Is it dented or rusted? Throw it away.”

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The problem with cans that are in less-than-perfect condition (think dents, dings and swollen areas) is that the hermetic seal and protective lining inside might be broken. Cans are coated with an interior lining that prevents the can's metal from coming in direct contact with its contents. If the outside of the can is dented, there’s a good chance the interior lining is compromised as well.

Usually, this results in the can rusting or swelling up as the food reacts with the steel, tin or aluminum. Bacteria can also grow and release gases that make the can bulge. (Botulism is a concern for goods improperly canned at home, but it's not a concern for commercially canned food.)


SO HOW LONG DOES FISH OIL LAST ONCE YOU OPEN IT?

By now, unless you’ve been living in a cave with no Wi-Fi, you should know that fish oil (aka essential omega-3 fatty acids) are super important for your pets.

According to research, it helps puppies and kittens with their physical development and also makes them a lot smarter! Adding fish oil will better their learning abilities, memory, eye function and psychomotor skills, just to name a few of the benefits.

For adult pets, essential omega-3s serve as an anti-inflammatory which can help with allergies, protect the heart, good for brain health, fights obesity & arthritis, supports a healthy immune system & kidney health and, above all, it can help smash cancer!

Notice the word “essential” always seems to go in front of the word “omega-3”. That’s because both your dog and cat’s body cannot not produce it on his or her own without some sort of supplementation. Hence the reason today’s fish oil market is booming.

However, there is giant elephant that lurks in the room when it comes time to purchasing a bottle of fish oil for your pet…Exactly how long does that bottle last once you break the seal?

The date on the side of the capsules or liquid oil bottle normally says it’s good for approximately 2 years.

BUT WAIT! THAT’S THE SHELF LIFE DATE BEFORE THE SEAL IS BROKEN!

The second you open the jar or bottle, the timer starts. Research shows you have anywhere from 30 to 90 days before the most essential oil in the world for pets can become the most dangerous.

“Omega-3 fatty acids are chemically unstable and highly prone to oxidize and degrade over time during storage. In general, it is estimated that fish oil supplements expire roughly 90 days after you open them.” – Livestrong.com

According to newer data, if not stored properly you’re lucky if you can get 30 days out of it before you run into serious problems.

“Light, heat and oxygen are the primary factors that influence degradation rate. Even stored in the dark, fish oil may oxidize unacceptably within 30 days of storage, according to a review published in the 2013 edition of the journal ‘BioMed Research International.’” – Hindawi.com

SO WHAT’S THE PROBLEM WITH THE CONSUMPTION OF RANCID OIL?

“Omega-3 fatty acids are highly vulnerable to oxidative damage. When fat particles oxidize, they break down into smaller compounds, like malondialdehyde (MDA), that are dangerous because they damage proteins, DNA, and other important cellular structures. In addition, animal studies show that oxidized lipids may cause organ damage, inflammation, carcinogenesis, and advanced atherosclerosis.” – BioMed Research International

As you can see, this is a serious issue if you’re not careful. But sometimes the oxidation situation is out of your hands.

A recent study conducted by the University of Auckland found the bulk of supplements tested and sold on the market in different parts of the world were considerably oxidized before purchase.

The study tested 36 different brands of fish oil capsules. Over half the products tested had oxidized to a level higher than the recommended limit (which had nothing to do with the best before date).

So you must be very careful when selecting the right company and manufacturer.

NEED SOME TIPS?

Here are a few tips from mercola.com and other experts to ensure you’re getting a high quality, non-rancid fish oil:

• The type of bottle used impacts the oil’s tendency to go rancid. Ideally, fish oil should be stored in glass or PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottles, as they offer the best protection against oxygen.

• Avoid fish oil in clear containers, because they will let through ultraviolet and fluorescent light that oxidizes the oil, turning it rancid.

• Buy smaller bottles. Do not buy anything you cannot finish within 90 days tops.

• Have the fish oils shipped overnight to your home, directly from the manufacturer to ensure freshness.

• Buy from a company with high product turnover to minimize the possibility of getting a product that’s been in storage for an extended period of time.

• Avoid direct sunlight and room temperature storage.

• Store the fish oil in your refrigerator.

• Avoid fish oil containers that use cheap plastic pumps as these pumps push air into the bottle of fish oil and speed the oxidation process. Otherwise, shop for airless pump technology.

• Some manufacturers use nitrogen-filled blister packs to prevent the supplements from coming in contact with oxygen or fortify their supplements with natural forms of vitamin E known as tocopherols to help prevent oxidation check labels for gamma and delta tocopherols in addition to alpha tocoperhol.

LAST BUT NOT LEAST:

“Another primary concern that is not widely recognized is that many of the fish oils on the market are contaminated with relatively large amounts of metals and toxic chemicals. And not just heavy metals. In fact, toxins like mercury are typically screened for, at least in higher quality brands.” – mercola.com

So do some digging and figure out what your manufacturer is doing to avoid these metals!

IN MY OPINION

Nothing beats the real thing. Feeding your pets fresh, clean, whole cuts of marine life is ideal. When selecting a product from a shelf (again, unless you truly know your manufacturer), because fish oil is highly prone to oxidation, purchase a month’s supply at a time. To do a quick rancidity check, pop open a capsule or remove the lid from a bottle of fish oil and have a smell. You want to smell the ocean and not get a whiff of rotten smelly fish!

Do your homework, my fellow pet parents, and avoid giving your pets, cheap, poor quality rancid fish oil as I promise you it will do them more harm than good!


How to reduce your child’s sugar intake

Like most double agents, added sugar is usually undercover. That means foods marketed as healthy snacks for kids sometimes aren’t. “Know how to spot hidden sugars,” says Hyland, “especially because sugar comes in various forms. The label could say dextrose, sucrose, honey, agave or molasses. Those are all words for sugar.”

So how do you turn the tide on your child’s sweet tooth? Hyland gives five tips.

1. Put sugar-sweetened beverages on your no-no list

Hyland says avoiding sugar-sweetened beverages, including juice, makes a big impact. “Even though 100% fruit juice doesn’t always have added sugar, it’s still a lot of sugar concentrated in one place,” says Hyland. “Also try to avoid lemonade, sodas and sports drinks, and especially as the kids get older, sweet teas and coffee drinks.”

2. Get food label literate

New food labels are currently being rolled out with a line for added sugar amounts. For example, a food label for an apple (which has all-natural sugar) would read:

  • Total sugars: 15 grams.
  • Includes 0 grams of added sugars.

A jar of applesauce, on the other hand, might say:

  • Total sugars: 24 grams.
  • Includes 10 grams of added sugars.

“The added sugar line can help you make smarter choices. If a food has 10 grams of added sugar, you might want to choose something else — since that’s nearly half the recommended amount for kids.” Hyland adds.

3. Choose foods with less than 10 grams of sugar and more than 5 grams of fiber

Cereals and granola bars can be sugar minefields. But instead of banning them altogether (and possibly causing meltdowns and tears), Hyland says to look for products containing less than 10 grams of sugar, and if possible, more than 5 grams of fiber.

“Fiber is beneficial in many ways. It helps with satiety, decreasing cholesterol and lowering the risk for diabetes and prediabetes,” she says. “A lot of products that have natural sugars, such as fruits and veggies, have a high fiber content.”

4. Make your own healthy snacks for kids

Processed food is often ground zero for added sugar. So the more food you that you can prepare at home, the better. “Baking mini-muffins rather than getting them from the store makes a difference. While your version might have sugar in it, you can choose a more natural type of sugar or control the amount,” Hyland explains.

You can also try making homemade granola bars that are sweetened with dates to avoid adding sugar. But if being Susie Homemaker isn’t your thing, you can go unprocessed without turning on your oven. For example, opt for fresh or dried fruit over fruit snacks.

There is one caveat: While honey and maple syrup are often seen as more natural sweeteners, they still count as added sugar. “A benefit is that you typically don’t have to use as much since they’re sweeter than regular sugar, and they also contain some nutrients,” says Hyland.

5. Train your child’s taste buds

Hyland suggests when you’re introducing solid foods to your kids, don’t start with the sweet stuff. “If we’re not introducing sugar in excess from the start, then their taste buds won’t crave those flavors as much.” Remember, fruit itself is okay! But nothing with sugar added to it.


Know Your Food Date Facts

Here’s something that might surprise you: almost none of the date labels on food products—sell-by, best-by, use-by—indicate the safety of food[2]. In fact, they’re just suggestions by the manufacturer for when they believe the food is at its freshest and tastiest, not when it will become unsafe to eat.

Get to know your food date terms and you’ll avoid throwing away perfectly good, edible food. Here’s what the USDA has to say about this:

Except for “use-by” dates, product dates don’t always pertain to home storage and use after purchase. “Use-by” dates usually refer to best quality and are not safety dates. Even if the date expires during home storage, a product should be safe, wholesome and of good quality if handled properly…If product has a “use-by” date, follow that date. If product has a “sell-by” date or no date, cook or freeze the product according to the times on the chart below.


Your Expiration Date Labels Are About to Get a Lot Smarter - Recipes

What is Zevia sweetened with?

All Zevia products are 100% sweetened with stevia leaf extract. To learn more about stevia, click here.

Are Zevia beverages non-GMO?

All Zevia products are Non-GMO Project Verified containing no genetically modified or bioengineered ingredients. All of our products have completed a comprehensive 3rd party verification for compliance with the Non-GMO Project Standard.

Is Zevia free of the 8 FDA regulated allergens?

Zevia is free of all 8 FDA regulated allergens- milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soybeans. If there are other ingredients you’re trying to avoid, please contact us for more information.

Do Zevia beverages contain any gluten?

When choosing our ingredients, we consider the impact they can have on individuals with food allergies and sensitivities. We are happy to confirm that all Zevia products are Gluten-free and have been certified by the Gluten Intolerance Group, which is the leading Gluten Free Certification Organization.

Are Zevia beverages certified kosher?

We are proud to say that all Zevia products are certified Kosher by the Orthodox Union.

We take great care in choosing ingredients that are used in our products. We are self-declared Vegan and all of our ingredients are 100% Vegan.

To keep our beverages as clean as possible, Zevia contains no added colors and no caramel color. That means all Zevia sodas, energy drinks, mixers and kidz beverages are clear.

The color of Zevia Organic Tea is the natural byproduct of the brewed tea leaves.

Which Zevia beverages contain caffeine?

The following flavors contain caffeine:

Sodas: Cola (45 mg/12 oz), Dr. Zevia (42 mg/12 oz), Mountain Zevia (55 mg/12 oz) and Cherry Cola (38 mg/12 oz).

Energy Drinks: Grapefruit, Mango Ginger, Raspberry Lime, and Kola. Each Zevia Energy drink contains 120 mg/12 oz.

Organic Teas: Black Tea, Black Tea (Lemon flavor), Black Tea (Raspberry flavor), Black Tea (Peach flavor), Earl Gray (Blood Orange flavor), and Green Tea each contain 45 mg/12oz.

The caffeine in all Zevia soda is extracted from the coffee bean. The caffeine in all Zevia Teas and Energy drinks is extracted from tea leaves.

Organic Teas: Black Tea, Black Tea (Lemon flavor), Black Tea (Raspberry flavor), Black Tea (Peach flavor), Earl Gray (Blood Orange flavor), and Green Tea each contain 45 mg/12oz.

The caffeine in all Zevia soda is extracted from the coffee bean. The caffeine in all Zevia Teas and Energy drinks is extracted from tea leaves.

Which Zevia beverages are caffeine free?

The following flavors are caffeine free:

Sodas: Black Cherry, Caffeine Free Cola, Cream Soda, Ginger Ale, Ginger Root Beer, Grape, Grapefruit Citrus, Lemon Lime Twist, Orange, and Strawberry.

Kidz: Cran-Raspberry, Fizzy Apple, Fruit Punch, Orange Cream, Strawberry Lemonade and Watermelon.

Organic Teas: Hibiscus Passionfruit and Caffeine Free Black Tea Lemon.

Mixers: Ginger Beer, Lemon Lime with Bitters and Tonic Water.

Sparkling Waters: Blackberry and Cucumber Lemon.

How do I read the expiration date on a can of Zevia?

Zevia Soda, Mixers, Sparkling Water, Energy and Kidz products are best within 18 months of manufacturing.

Zevia Organic Teas are best within 12 months of manufacturing.

You can read the code on the bottom of your can to determine your beverages birthdate.

Using the following example: C2002A13:20

• In the code, the first letter represents the month of canning. A is January so C means March.
Please note we skip letter “I”. As it looks too much like a #1.

• The next two numbers indicate the year it was made: 2020.

• The next two numbers are the day of the month.

• The next letter is a Zevia internal tracking ID.

• The last set of numbers indicates the production time in military time.

I want my local store to carry Zevia. What should I do?

While Zevia is available in a variety of thirst-quenching flavors, not every retailer carries them all. Bummer right? But wait, you have the power! If you want more flavors, you may be surprised at what you can do. Check out the request form at the bottom of the store locator! Sometimes your store manager just needs a little guidance from smarter beverage lovers, like you.

I'm a retailer. How can I sell Zevia in my store?

Email us at [email protected] or give us a call at855.GO.ZEVIA.

Here at Zevia, we feel strongly about reducing sugar consumption, using simple, plant-based ingredients and creating delicious and refreshing beverages. Our passion can be found throughout all of our products, from Soda to Energy to Organic Tea, Mixers and our Kidz line - we’ve got you covered. Zevia has a can for every hand, providing beverages for every family member, every time of day, and for every usage occasion. However you live your best, we’re here with our best: Zero Sugar, Zero Calories.

Taking bold steps is what Zevia is all about. Our mission is to create zero sugar, zero calorie, naturally sweetened beverages with craveable flavors and zero artificial sweeteners. Sweetened with stevia leaf extract and available in a variety of delicious flavors, we’re the naturally sweetened beverage you and your family will enjoy.

How do I track my Zevia.com order?

You'll receive an e-mail as soon as your package leaves our warehouse with the tracking number for your shipment.

How do I know when my order has shipped?

When you place your order, you'll get an Order Confirmation email right away, letting you know that our system has accepted your order. Then when your order is shipped, you'll receive a Shipment Notification email. You'll be able to follow your order through the tracking information inside the Shipment Notification email.

How long will it take for my order to arrive?

We strive to process orders within 2business days (Monday-Friday). Due to the unprecedented increases in demand due to current world events, please expect delays in the shipping of your order. Once processed, please allow 7-10 business days for your delicious Zevia cases to arrive at your door.

We are working closely with our team and shipping partners to minimize the impact and get your product to you as quickly as possible. We appreciate your business and your patience, as we all work to manage the personal and business realities of the day.

Can I change my order once it's been placed?

You may not cancel your order once it has been placed. Please email us at [email protected] or call us at 1.855.GO.ZEVIA(1.855.469.3842). We will try our best to help.

How do Zevia.com subscriptions work?

Select the shipment frequency you would like to receive for your Zevia (14 or 28 days) and place the order in your shopping cart. Service will begin a few days after placing the order and shipped based on the frequency you selected. You can skip a shipment, request a specific shipment date, or change your subscription details by logging into your Zevia account and editing your subscription.

How do I change the frequency of my subscription?

1. From our storefront, select the Account Management icon.

2. Log in to the account that has the active subscription.

3. Select the Manage Subscription link.

4. Under Order frequency, select Change frequency

5. Select the dropdown and change the frequency to the desired frequency option.

7. Once the order frequency has been updated, check to make sure that the upcoming order dates are correct as well to match the new frequency selected.

How do I change the shipping address of my subscription?

1. From our storefront, select the Account Management icon.

2. Log in to the account that has the active subscription.

3. Select the Manage Subscription text.

4. Select Show details under the subscription you would like to update the shipping address for.

5. Select Edit next to "Address and shipping information"

6. Select an existing address or enter a new address.

8. Once the shipping details have been updated, all future recurring orders will automatically reflect this new information on the generated orders in Shopify

How do I cancel my subscription?

1. From our storefront, select the Account Management icon.

2. Log in to the account that has the active subscription.

3. Select Manage my Subscription page

4. Scroll Down to “My Subscription” and select your active subscription.

5. Select “Cancel Subscription”

How can I edit my account information?

You can edit your account information, such as your billing, shipping address, your payment method, or your subscription frequency, by logging in to your Zevia.com account using the email and password that you registered for the account with.

I forgot my account password. What do I do?

If you are experiencing difficulties accessing your account, you can reset your password by following the instructions on the account login page, or by contacting us at [email protected] We are always happy to help.

What is your return policy?

Unfortunately, we don't accept returns or exchanges of product. If your order was damaged in transit, or if you've received the wrong order, please reach out to our Customer Care team immediately, by emailing [email protected] or calling 1.855.GO.ZEVIA (1.855.469.3842).

What is your shipping policy?

All orders of 3 or more cases ship for free. We charge a flat rate of $5 per case for orders under 3 cases. We ship to street addresses within the 48 contiguous United States. Currently we do not ship to FPOs, APOs, P.O. Boxes, Alaska or Hawaii. We also do not ship to Canada at this time.

Orders are processed at our warehouse Monday-Friday. Once processed, please allow 3-6 business days for your delicious Zevia cases to arrive at your door.


How To Figure Out Food Product Shelf Life

A fair number of our customers are also curious about determining shelf-life when they are doing nutrition analysis and creating nutrition labels on ReciPal.

While we don't offer a formal service for calculating shelf-life, we do have some practical advice for those just getting started.

And we have a little experience with our jerky making. All kidding aside, we'll give you some practical tips on conducting your own shelf-life study without breaking the bank.


Is a Shelf Life Test Required?

Aside from infant formula, the regulators do not require expiration dates on food products. It's at your (the food manufacturer's) discretion, but sometimes it won't be entirely up to you because the stores you'll be selling to may require it.

Keep in mind that a core principle of U.S. food law is that foods must be fit for consumption. So, just because you're not required to have an expiration date it doesn't mean you can sell food that has gone bad.

The shelf life of a food product begins from the time the food is finished processing and packaged. The time depends on factors like ingredients, manufacturing process, packaging, and storage conditions (temperature, light, etc.).

Before you begin any shelf-life study, however informal, you should have a finalized recipe and production process. Changing ingredients, packaging, and processing can alter the shelf-life, so these have to be stable already.

There is also a difference between when the food starts to spoil and when it starts losing quality. Some of our customers care more about the quality, so even if a product hasn't spoiled they might not be happy selling it to customers after a certain point.

Lastly, certain products have specific regulations on shelf-life regarding "sell-by" dates and "best-by" dates. Do your research and figure out where your product falls before doing any testing.

Conducting an Informal Shelf Life Study

Even if you're not ready to shell out thousands for a formal shelf-life study with a lab, there is a lot you can do:

First, check competitors' labels . Do they all have similar "best-by" dates? That might be a good starting point. Just be careful since they may use different ingredients, processing techniques and packaging.

Second, conduct your own (informal) study. Take your product and store it under recommended storage conditions . Does it say to refrigerate on the packaging? Leave it in the fridge. Every few weeks, open a bag and take detailed notes . How does it look, smell, taste, feel? How has it changed from a "fresh" bag? Keep checking until you notice changes.

You may also want to run basic tests. Does your product require certain pH levels? Test the pH if you have the tools.

Make sure you have enough samples. Decide what shelf-life would make you really happy. How many weeks is that? How often do you want to check your samples? Divide the total weeks of testing by how frequently you'll be checking it and have AT LEAST that many samples.

So, for a 15 week study with tests every 2 weeks, you'd need at least 7 or 8 samples. For a 40 day study with tests every 3 days, you'd need at least 13 or 14 samples.

Determining your food product's shelf-life can start out very simply and increase in complexity greatly. Here's a list of steps in increasing order of complexity and price.


Frozen Fruit Labels

Freezing fruit is a common practice of preserving these products and enabling consumers across the globe to enjoy berries, bananas, melon, kiwi and other fruits any time, even in off-season. Though nothing beats eating them fresh, fruits can retain their quality and delicious taste if frozen at the peak of their ripeness and following certain necessary procedures. Properly frozen fruit can be just as tasty and healthy as fresh ones, and it can last long in the freezer.

To make sure the physical and chemical characteristics of a fruit product are retained after freezing, food producers should harvest fruits when they reach the proper stage of maturity and freeze them immediately after harvesting. The freezing process should include:

  • Packaging fruit in moisture- and air-resistant bags or containers
  • Freezing the product quickly, so that there’s no time for any deterioration to occur
  • Keeping the frozen fruit at constant temperature in the freezer, without any temperature fluctuations
  • Not allowing the food to come into contact with air, to prevent air burns
  • Possibly packing fruit in sugar or sugar syrup, because sweetened fruits retain their quality longer than unsweetened

Informing Consumers About Your Frozen Food Product

It takes a lot of time and effort to create a quality food product. Once the production process is over, the product needs to be packaged, branded and marketed so that consumers will choose it over other similar products. Consumers are increasingly interested in information about food they are purchasing, so in order to win them over, it is wise to be as informational as possible.

Food labels are used to both inform buyers, and comply with federal and state requirements for adequate labeling. The information that is required by law to appear on a frozen fruit packaging is the following:

  • Common name of the product (e.g. “Blueberries”)
  • The form the fruit is in (whole, slices, etc.), if the packaging is not transparent
  • Net weight of the product in grams
  • Ingredients, unless it’s a one-ingredient product (for example, only blueberries)
  • Nutritional information (serving size, nutrients, vitamins and minerals)
  • Name and address of the producer, packer or distributor
  • Expiration date
  • Information about proper storage
  • Health claims, if any

To show potential customers that your product is top quality, you can include additional information that could help them out in their decision-making, such as recipes, defrosting instructions, serving ideas, etc.

FYI: Fruit Label Digits Decoding

You probably noticed that many individually packaged fruit have small, usually round fruit labels with a number on them. That’s not just some random series number that serves to mark the product, but a very important piece of information for the consumer. If the number on this fruit label has 4 digits, it means that it’s a conventionally grown fruit with pesticides and chemicals. If the label has 5 digits and the first one is 8, it means that the fruit has been genetically modified. If it’s a 5 digit label starting with 9, it means that the fruit is certified organic.

Another important aspect of labeling your product is choosing labels that are freezer proof and suitable for very low temperatures. We at freezerlabels.net supply frozen food manufacturers with quality blank stickers or custom printed freezer labels according to individual preferances, label order size and available budget.

Our labels can be any size, shape, color, label stock and adhesive, but we make sure to point out advantages and disadvantages of selected label materials, and we advise you on the best solution for your professional-looking frozen fruit packaging product.


Yes, You Can Totally Ignore the Expiration Dates on These Foods

As Americans, we’ve kind of been trained to be wasteful when it comes to food. We toss out food that’s the least bit bruised or battered and we definitely don’t run the risk of getting sick by eating food that’s close to its expiration date. Don’t believe me? According to the Natural Resources Defense Council’s 2012 “Wasted” report, collectively, we don’t eat up to 40 percent of the food we buy. And according to Harvard Law and NRDC’s 2013 follow-up study, “The Dating Game: How Confusing Food Date Labels Lead to Food Waste in America,” one big culprit might be our overreliance on so-called expiration dates on the foods we buy.

The problem, says NRDC food and agriculture staff scientist Dana Gunders in the report,
is that those expiration dates cause people to throw away perfectly good food (and waste serious cash). It could even cause people to assume food that is spoiled because it was stored improperly is OK to eat. &ldquoPhrases like &lsquosell by,&rsquo &rsquouse by,&rsquo and &lsquobest before&rsquo are poorly regulated, misinterpreted and [lead] to a false confidence in food safety. It is time for a well-intended but wildly ineffective food date labeling system to get a makeover.&rdquo

OK, we’re all big, giant food wasters, so how do we fix it? Well, first let’s investigate all those dates.

What food dates really mean

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service fact sheet, only infant formula is required to have an accurate use-by date under federal law. Some states may have regulations for other foods, but it’s hardly consistent from state to state, and even in states that do require it, it’s only required on certain foods, such as meat or dairy products, and further, the accuracy of those dates depends on a lot of factors that are difficult to verify, such as the temperature at which the food is stored throughout the entire supply chain. Well, that’s certainly not comforting.

Long story short: Those “expiration dates” are kinda (if not mostly) arbitrary, and most foods last for weeks if not years after the dates printed on the package. And it makes sense when you think about what the phrases they use actually mean. The USDA fact sheet gives the following definitions:

  • Best if Used By/Before: The date the product should be used by for best flavor or quality it has nothing to do with food safety, and it’s even safe to purchase it after that date if it shows up in the discount bin unless there are other signs of spoilage.
  • Sell-By: This is literally just a date for use by the retailer to aid them in their inventory and has nothing to do with the food’s safety (and perhaps even quality).
  • Use-By: With the exception of baby formula (and medicines if you see it on those), this is when the food is at its peak quality and has nothing to do with safety. For formula (and medicine), you shouldn’t buy or use the product after this date, as the nutritional quality may have degraded, but for all other food items, it has nothing to do with safety.

But if best-if-used-by, sell-by and use-by dates tell you nothing, how are you supposed to know when your food is more than past its prime? To reduce food waste (and your grocery bill), you just need to go back to basics and learn what signs to look for.

Discoloration

For some foods, you can see if there’s a problem. Discoloration doesn’t always mean food is spoiled, as some foods, like avocados, naturally brown when exposed to air. Green veggies will start to turn yellow as they age, and while that does mean they’re losing nutrients, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re unsafe to eat. But some types of discoloration are definitely red flags.

EatByDate says that if you crack open an egg and the egg white has a pinkish or iridescent tinge to it, chuck it and opt for oatmeal for breakfast.

Brown spots on fruits and veggies are certainly disconcerting, but unless most of the food is brown or it displays other signs of spoilage, it’s probably just the result of bruising and is safe to eat. For example, East Point Potatoes says brown and black spots on potatoes can just be removed before consumption. But they warn that if the potato has started to turn green, it should be discarded.

Meat does start to naturally discolor when it’s exposed to light and air, so if it’s just starting to turn a little reddish brown (or bluish or yellowish for poultry), The Kitchn notes that the meat probably OK to eat unless there are other warning signs.

Change in texture

When some foods go bad, the texture is a dead giveaway something’s not quite right.

Meats, including deli meat, will develop a slimy or sticky film and should be discarded. Salad greens will wilt and may also develop a slimy, discolored appearance. Even carrots and other veggies can develop a weird slick coating when they’re getting a little long in the tooth, and shouldn’t be eaten either.

But a change in texture doesn’t always mean it’s bad. If an apple is only slightly soft and doesn’t display any other signs of spoilage, just cut away any dark spots and use them to whip up some applesauce or throw them in the slow cooker with a pork shoulder and some aromatics. But Livestrong warns that extremely mushy apples that smell vinegary should be discarded. A lot of fruits and veggies can still be used if they’re only somewhat wrinkled or soft. To find out, just ask Overlord Google.

Dairy products, such as milk, sour cream and Greek yogurt, will curdle and become lumpy when they’re bad.

Stale bread, however, isn’t necessarily bad unless you see other signs of spoilage. Just chop it up and make croutons or homemade breadcrumbs and use them immediately.

Foods sometimes develop a greenish mold, and mold should definitely not be ingested. But does that mean you need to discard moldy food or can you just cut away the mold?

The Mayo Clinic says when it comes to very soft cheese &mdash such as cottage cheese, cream cheese or ricotta &mdash or shredded, crumbled or sliced cheese the whole container should be discarded since “the mold can send threads throughout the cheese &mdash contaminating more than you see. In addition, harmful bacteria, such as listeria, brucella, salmonella and E. coli, can grow along with the mold.” But they say that in semisoft and hard cheese (such as cheddar, Colby, Parmesan and Swiss), the mold usually can’t penetrate that far, so you can just cut away the part that’s moldy.

But those white specs you often see on aged cheeses like Parm aren’t mold. They’re amino acid clusters, and Serious Eats says they’re perfectly safe to ingest. But if they creep you out, scrap them off.

When it comes to moldy bread, salvaging it is a no-go for the same reason you can’t salvage that moldy cottage cheese, according to Healthline. Bread is porous, so the threads of mold can spread even if you can’t see them.

That said, mold can be pretty serious for someone who has an allergy to it or those with compromised immune systems, and if that’s the case, any moldy food should be immediately discarded in a way that ensures they won’t have any contact with it. And never do a sniff test of moldy bread even if you’re perfectly healthy. Healthline warns it can lead to breathing problems, including asthma, if the spores get into your lungs.

Smells “off”

If food smells rancid, sour or vinegary (when it isn’t supposed to), discard it.

This can be challenging for foods like sour cream, which have a naturally tangy scent as is, but if it smells less tangy and more like sour milk, it’s bad. The same applies to cheese and other dairy products.

Raw fish will start to smell fishier as it gets older, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad, according to the Cook’s Illustrated book Cook’s Science. But if fish smells both fishy and acrid or has other signs of spoilage, discard it.

Oils can also go rancid, and if that happens, it’s best not to use them because they’ll make your food taste disgusting. Livestrong also says rancid oil can damage cells in your body over time and even cause food poisoning if it’s infused with other organics, such as garlic.

If your flour or other dry goods smell musty, don’t use them either. In flour, a musty smell might be a sign of mold, according to Our Everyday Life. And if it smells rancid, the oils in the flour may have gone bad, and it should be discarded just like a bottle of canola oil would be.

A word of caution

EatByDate is an excellent resource if you need to look up the signs of spoilage or want to know the real expiration date of a specific food (smooth or crunch peanut butter that isn’t marketed as “natural” lasts up to a year past the printed date if it’s unopened!).

However, Michael Doyle, director of the Center for Food Safety at the University of Georgia, told ABC News there’s a difference between spoiled food and contaminated food. According to Doyle, the big baddies we’re all afraid of &mdash things like salmonella and E. coli &mdash are odorless, colorless and invisible. Those types of contaminations happen as the result of improper food safety practices, whether at the farm, the processing plant or in your own home. The spoilage bacteria may not be appetizing and certainly might make you feel a bit icky (even if it’s just psychosomatic), but it’s not nearly as harmful as the stuff you can’t see, taste or smell. So always keep an eye out for recalls and follow proper food-handling and storage procedures in your own home.


Product expiration labels are adding to our food waste problem

Until recently I had no idea what to do with the food in my fridge that seemed on the verge of spoiling. Sometimes I hate throwing out food so much I’ve eaten around moldy patches of bread, mushy apples, and once, maggots in a mango. (I know, gross). Other times I’m so nervous about getting sick I’ve thrown out spinach that’s still crisp and yogurt days away from its expiration date.

Those expiration dates stamped on food by manufacturers have been a helpful reference point for me, but now I’m wondering if they should be. A few days ago I didn’t notice that some hummus had expired, and ate it anyway. My roommates did the same. We’re all still healthy and around to talk about it.

I took it as a sign that maybe there’s something I don’t know about expiration dates. Turns out there’s a lot I don’t know.

First, I’d always assumed they signaled when food would spoil. Wrong. Federal regulations don’t require product dating on any foods except infant formula. That’s because the dating has little to do with health, safety, and spoilage. Expiration dates are suggestions, not rules, for when a store should sell the product by, or you should eat a product by, to enjoy the best flavor.

Let’s go back to that hummus in our fridge. We weren’t putting our health at risk by eating it close to the “sell by” date. If it had passed a “use by” date, it probably would have been fine to eat it as well, as long as it smelled okay and didn’t have any mold on it. The hummus may just not have tasted as fresh. Food producers set these dates by considering factors like temperature during distribution and packaging.

I immediately thought about all the food I’ve tossed after seeing the expiration date. A lot! And I’m not alone. Ninety percent of Americans say they toss food after the expiration date, according to a study by the Natural Resources Defense Council and Harvard Law School’s Food Law and Policy Clinic. It’s difficult to find data on how much of our food waste is due to our confusion over labels, but it’s likely significant. The Department of Agriculture finds that the average American tosses nearly a pound of food each day.

In fact, we send 52 million tons of food to landfills each year. When food ends up in landfills, it rots and emits methane--almost one quarter of our total methane emissions. This greenhouse gas is 21 times more harmful to the environment than CO2. When we waste food, we also squander the resources that went into producing and transporting it. ReFED, a food waste prevention organization, calculated exactly what that breaks down to: 21 percent of all fresh water, 19 percent of fertilizer, 18 percent of cropland, and 21 percent of landfill space.

Add to this the fact that one in seven Americans are food insecure and we really need to do something to lower our waste.

What’s in an expiration date?

So let’s start with those often misleading expiration dates. My roommates and I sometimes get together to clean out our fridge, reading product labels and arguing over what to keep. Sometimes it’s a nice group bonding experience, but it definitely drags on for longer than it needs to. How do we know when it’s time to toss our food?

Know what those labels mean. “Best if Used By” tells you when the product has the best flavor or quality. After this date, cereal might taste stale or go soft. It’s not a safety date. “Use-By” recommends when you should consume a product for best quality. The only time it’s a safety date is for infant formula. “Sell-By” indicates to the store how long to keep it on shelves for sale. This is also only about guaranteeing quality for consumers.

Consider frozen food and non-perishables safe. The bacteria that causes food poisoning doesn’t grow in freezers. You can eat frozen food months or even years after the expiration date. The same applies for nonperishable grains like dry pasta and rice, as well as canned goods. Those canned peaches hanging out in your pantry food may not taste great, but if they’re free of dents and rust they’ll be safe to eat two to three years after the product date. Keep them in a cool place and out of sunlight. In general, you can expect to keep more processed foods for longer after their expiration date, thanks to all those preservatives and chemicals you may not want to eat.

Buy fresh foods in small amounts. When fruit and vegetables do go bad, turn them into fruit sauces or breads or jam. Check out these hacks for overripe fruit. Plus, here’s a cookbook that focuses on salvaging food scraps and leftovers.

Use this trick. No need to trust the expiration dates on egg cartons when you know this trick. Place eggs in a bowl of water. Bacteria produces lots of gas, so if the egg floats it’s too unsafe to eat. This tip was seriously helpful when I recently dug out an old carton from the back of the fridge. Happily, the eggs passed.

Get organized. Plan your meals ahead of time so you buy only what you eat. This has saved me so much time. I used to go to grocery stores and re-walk through every aisle twice just because I didn’t know what I wanted. FoodKeeper is a helpful app that helps you maximize food freshness and figure out how long it will stay safe to eat.

Freeze or dry your food. Freezing makes everything from bread to cheese last longer. That said, it works better for some foods than others. (Tip: don’t freeze your lettuce.) Dried food saves a lot of shelf space. Peel and slice your fruit and veggies, and then throw them in the oven at around 150 degrees.

Compost, compost, compost. If you need to toss anything, see if you can compost it. The food will stay out of landfills and give nutrients back to the soil. It’s much more environmentally friendly than chemical fertilizers, and it’s also free! You just need a bin to collect food scraps and a little bit of patience. You could start here.

Emily Zhang is a Stone Pier Press News Fellow based in Palo Alto, CA.



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