Chilled foods have a very short life (general 10-15 days). This is because they receive very little processing. Strict temperature controls are required throughout the whole food chain to maintain their safety and quality. So when buying chilled prepared foods:
- Look on the label for the ‘use by’ date. This is the date after which the food should not be consumed as the taste and quality can be affected and potentially the food may be unsafe to eat.
- Buy chilled foods last on your shop. Pack them together ideally in an insulated bag or cool box. Take them home and put them in the fridge as soon as possible.
- Avoid putting chilled foods in warm places during transport e.g. near car heaters or in the sun.
Check the ‘use by’ dates on the food in your fridge on a regular basis and be sure to use (eat, cook or freeze) food before its ‘use by’ date to help you avoid throwing food away unnecessarily.
How to store chilled foods – temperatures, ‘use by’ dates, ‘eat within’
As with all foods, correct storage is important to reduce the risk of food poisoning.
- Always read the manufacturer’s storage instructions and make sure that you store chilled foods in the fridge at the right temperature until it is time to cook or eat them.
- Always use chilled foods within the ‘use by’ date, but even if a food is within this date don’t eat it if it looks, tastes or smells off.
- Once the packaging is opened it is important to follow any additional instructions, such as ‘eat within two days of opening’, but not if the use by date is tomorrow.
- Do not eat leftover cooked chilled food or chilled prepared foods that have been left out at room temperature for more than 3 to 4 hours.
- Avoid cross contamination by storing chilled foods separately from raw foods, such as meat or fish. Raw foods should be kept separate from cooked and ready-to-eat foods and should be placed on the bottom shelf of the fridge so that they don’t drip onto other foods.
- If you freeze chilled prepared foods in the home make sure you follow manufacturers’ instructions. Do not refreeze once defrosted.