Frozen Food Safety Practices at Home
1. Understand that freezing at 0 °F does not destroy whatever bacteria, yeasts, or molds are present in raw food; it only inactivates them. Given the right temperature and condition, thawed frozen food must be handled just like any perishable item in terms of cooking or eating. The microorganisms can be reactivated and multiply once the food is removed from cold storge.
2. It’s always best practice to rapid-freeze the food to prevent the molecules from forming large ice crystals. Frozen food with large crystals can cause frozen meat to drip out its juices during thawing.
3. Packages should not be stored stacked on top of each other; instead, they should be laid out in single layers, unless the packages being stacked are already frozen solid.
4. Ideally, keeping the freezer door closed most of the time, allows longer storage, since it maintains the freezer temperature at a constant zero or below -zero degree level. Use a separate freezer compartment for food that does not require long-term food storage.
5. Another frozen food safety practice is to keep an appliance thermometer inside the freezer compartment to allow temperature-checks. This is especially important when power outages or freezing mechanism malfunctions occur.
6. Keep a freezer storage chart as a ready reference to determine the optimum freezing time for a particular food. Although proper freezing can keep the food safe for an indefinite period, observance of the ideal freezing time keeps the food at its best quality. (Click on the image to get a larger view or click here for a downloadable copy available at Bright Hub's Media Gallery).
7. Remember to cook thawed frozen food properly, because certain food parasites can be destroyed only by thorough cooking.
8. Discard any thawed, frozen food with a rancid smell or with off-odor, as it denotes food that has been over-stored.
9. When freezing fresh meat or poultry in their original packages, make sure to overwrap them to allow for long-term food storage and to prevent their permeability to air, which may diminish food quality and safety.
10. Freezer burn is caused by air, which contacts the food surface; this does not make the food unsafe, it only diminishes the quality. Freezer burn may appear as grayish brown and leathery dry spots. Do not include said portions by cutting them off before or after cooking the food.
11. In cases where the overwrapping gets accidentally torn or ripped while in the freezer, make it a point to add additional overwraps, or rewrap if necessary.
12. Color changes in stored meats can also be caused by abnormally long storage. Stored, frozen poultry may show some bone darkening when thawed because the natural pigments may seep through the porous bone parts.
13. Frozen, fully cooked food and vegetables that manifest dulled colors denotes prolonged storage beyond what is normal, or it may be due to improper packaging that caused the food to dry-up.
More frozen food safety practices are explained on the next page.