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Home > Health Library > Food Safety: Storing
Storing food promptly and correctly can help prevent food poisoning.
If the food label has a "use by" date, try to eat the food by that date. If that date has passed, it doesn't mean the food is no longer safe. But check it carefully before eating it for any signs that it has spoiled. If the food smells, feels, or looks strange, throw it away.
If it has no date or only a "sell by" date, use the following table. It tells you how long you should keep some popular foods in the refrigerator or freezer. If you follow the recommended refrigeration time, you will ensure that food is safe and doesn't spoil. Freezing food keeps it safe for as long as it is frozen, so the recommended freezer-storage times are only to ensure highest quality.
Can refrigerate for:
Can freeze for:
1 to 2 days
3 to 4 months
Beef, steaks and roasts
3 to 5 days
4 to 12 months
Cheese, processed or brick
3 to 4 weeks
Can be frozen, but affects taste and texture
Chicken, breasts or legs
3 to 5 weeks
Do not freeze
Eggs, hard boiled
Do not freeze well
Fish, fatty (salmon, perch, other)
2 to 3 months
Fish, lean (cod, flounder, other)
Up to 6 months
Ice cream, ice milk
Do not refrigerate
2 to 4 months
Lunch meat, opened package
1 to 2 months
Lunch meat, unopened package
3 to 4 days
4 to 6 months
Soups, stews (with vegetables or meat)
FoodSafety (2017). Storage times for the refrigerator and freezer. FoodSafety. https://www.foodsafety.gov/keep/charts/storagetimes.html. Accessed February 3, 2017.
Current as of: June 9, 2019
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal MedicineAdam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Current as of:
June 9, 2019
Medical Review:E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
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