Expiration Dates: What Do They Really Mean?

// Katie Rynard on Tuesday August 23, 2016

You’re in the middle of making a meal for a church potluck and notice your shredded cheese is a couple days past its prime based on the bag’s printed expiration date. Should you use it anyway? Toss it in the trash?

Food expiration terms like “sell by” and “use by” can be confusing and can contribute to food waste. Here’s what these terms really mean:

“Sell by” date: This date is geared toward retailers. It specifies when stores should pull items from their shelves to guarantee peak freshness. You can enjoy food for awhile after its sell-by date passes.

“Best before” date: This quality indicator marks when you should eat the food for best flavor, taste and freshness. Foods can still be enjoyed past their “best before” dates.

“Use by” date: The most stringent of the bunch, this date marks the last date recommended for consuming the product at peak quality, but foods aren’t automatically inedible once this date expires.

As you may have guessed, these dates are determined by the manufacturer and they pertain to food quality rather than food safety. For instance, eggs can be consumed 3 to 5 weeks after you purchase them, if they’re stored properly.  How you store food impacts its overall shelf life – especially after the printed date passes.

When in doubt, use your senses – and common sense – to determine whether to keep or toss food. If your milk is lumpy, pitch it. If your juice smells or tastes sour, pitch it. If your mayo has a layer of mold, pitch it. But if your shredded cheese doesn’t look, smell, or taste bad, you may still use it even if the printed date on the bag says it’s four days past its prime.

For a general rundown of expiration dates for opened and unopened products, check out this Real Simple article – it may surprise you. Also consider the USDA’s FoodKeeper app, which offers storage guidance for more than 400 food and beverage items, including storage timelines for the fridge, freezer and pantry. And if you’re wondering how long leftovers last – since those don’t come with printed expiration dates – click here for tips.

It’s always better to be safe than sorry, but being savvy about shelf life can help you reduce food waste, use what you have and clear up confusion the next time you’re digging through your fridge.

SOURCES: USDA | Consumer Reports

This material is for information only and is not intended to provide legal or professional advice. You are encouraged to consult with your own attorney or other expert consultants for a professional opinion specific to your situation. This information is only a general description of the available coverages and is not a contract. In an effort to keep your policy coverage affordable, the actual policy contains certain limitations and exclusion. Please refer to your insurance policy for the pertinent contract language and coverages. Some coverages and discounts are not available in all states. GuideOne welcomes all applications, without regard to religion, race, color, national origin, sex, handicap or familial status.

Katie Rynard

Katie Rynard

Katie Rynard is a Corporate Communications Specialist at GuideOne Insurance.

When she's not at work, she enjoys decorating, traveling, trying new restaurants and spending time with her husband, daughter and dachshund puppy.

Kitchen Sanitation Checklist

// Katie Rynard on Thursday August 11, 2016

Whether you’re preparing potluck dinners, lunch for the daycare or a meal for a charitable fundraiser, chances are you’ll find yourself in your church or organization’s kitchen at some point. How clean is the workspace you’re washing, chopping and cooking in?

A clean kitchen goes a long way in preventing foodborne illnesses, and should be a priority for your church or organization. Keep these kitchen sanitation pointers in mind when reviewing your organization’s food safety guidelines, and share them with employees and volunteers who work in your kitchen.

  • If you haven’t already, sign an agreement with a professional pest control service that’s dedicated to your kitchen area. This is a job that’s best left to the pros instead of inexperienced staff members or volunteers.
  • Maintain mechanical dishwashing equipment to ensure it works properly. It's a good idea to monitor and document temperature gauges, check sprayer arms for clogs, and clean screens and filters.
  • Remove garbage from the building after each meal.
  • Find a home for garbage containers that’s an adequate distance away from the building.
  • Clean and sanitize all food-contact surfaces and utensils, and use appropriate sanitizing solution in correct concentrations. Bleach is not approved for sanitizing food-contact surfaces. Click here for more cleaning and sanitizing tips and methods, including an overview of cleaning agents.
  • Request that any employees and/or volunteers handling food do the following:
    • Wash their hands frequently and correctly.
    • Use aprons or towels to dry hands after washing.
    • Do not handle, prepare or serve food if they have an apparent illness.

SOURCE: Kitchen and Food Safety for Ministries by the GuideOne Center for Risk Management, LLC

This material is for information only and is not intended to provide legal or professional advice. You are encouraged to consult with your own attorney or other expert consultants for a professional opinion specific to your situation. This information is only a general description of the available coverages and is not a contract. In an effort to keep your policy coverage affordable, the actual policy contains certain limitations and exclusion. Please refer to your insurance policy for the pertinent contract language and coverages. Some coverages and discounts are not available in all states. GuideOne welcomes all applications, without regard to religion, race, color, national origin, sex, handicap or familial status.

Katie Rynard

Katie Rynard

Katie Rynard is a Corporate Communications Specialist at GuideOne Insurance.

When she's not at work, she enjoys decorating, traveling, trying new restaurants and spending time with her husband, daughter and dachshund puppy.

Five Summer Safety Hazards

// Ellen Wade on Thursday July 14, 2016

Summer is a great time; a time to get out, play in the sun and enjoy longer days with friends and family.  But amidst all of the good times, there are safety hazards we often overlook.  Don’t forget to keep the following safety concerns in mind:

  1. Playgrounds – While they can be a great way to spend the day outdoors, according to the CPSC, more than 200,000 children go to the emergency room each year from injuries resulting from playground equipment. Review these tips for keeping playground equipment safe for little ones
  2. Inflatables – Summer parties or back-to-school celebrations aren’t complete without an inflatable or two.  While inflatables are popular and add excitement to the event, there are dangers associated with their use. Consider the following safety measures if you are using an inflatable at your next event.
  3. Heat – It’s not summer without the heat!  Warm days and long nights are what make the colder winter months tolerable.  But on the days when the thermometer is creeping past tolerable, and the heat is becoming too much to bear, make sure you know how to beat the heat.
  4. Food safety – As always, food is typically a large part of our outdoor activities. From snacks at the ballfield to a picnic in the park, it’s important to remember safe food practices for everyone. Remember to be aware of any food allergies, and know how to handle an emergency situation
  5. Lawn mowers – A necessity for most of us, lawn mowers give us freshly cut grass and nicely manicured lawns. However, if not properly operated or maintained, they can be dangerous.  Make sure you are performing these five key maintenance tips before you use your lawn mower.

It’s hard to believe we’re already midway through summer.  It seems like it goes faster each year.  Keep your summer safe and fun with these tips!

This material is for information only and is not intended to provide legal or professional advice. You are encouraged to consult with your own attorney or other expert consultants for a professional opinion specific to your situation. This information is only a general description of the available coverages and is not a contract. In an effort to keep your policy coverage affordable, the actual policy contains certain limitations and exclusion. Please refer to your insurance policy for the pertinent contract language and coverages. Some coverages and discounts are not available in all states. GuideOne welcomes all applications, without regard to religion, race, color, national origin, sex, handicap or familial status.

Ellen Wade

Ellen Wade

Ellen Wade is a Marketing Specialist for GuideOne Insurance, focusing on content marketing and social media.

In her free time, she enjoys running, biking, reading and exploring new cities.

VBS Safety Tips

// Lindsay Taylor on Tuesday July 12, 2016

The summer months are a very popular time for churches to host Vacation Bible School (VBS). This week long event provides the perfect opportunity to teach the youngest members of your congregation more about your ministry. 

While this can be a fun time for everyone involved, there is always a chance for risks. In order to keep children, staff and volunteers safe during VBS, it is important to take various safety measures. 

Staff and Volunteers – The staff and volunteers who help out with VBS are essential to running a great program. However, it is important to screen everyone before they start in order to protect all children from a potentially harmful situation. Conduct a background check on each individual to ensure they do not have a criminal history. 

In addition, take measures to prevent harassment among staff and volunteer members. Conduct initial training for any new workers, and make sure all policies and procedures are communicated properly. 

Food Safety – Whether it is a snack, meal or part of an activity, food is often served at VBS. With the number of food allergies and food-related illnesses that can occur, it is important to be aware of the food you are preparing for the week.

  • Allergies – Avoid preparing foods that are commonly associated with food allergies such as peanuts, nuts and dairy products. It may also be beneficial to collect a list of food allergies that children or staff may have. If you are aware of their allergies, an allergic reaction may be easier to prevent. If an allergic reaction does take place, be sure your staff is educated on how to handle the situation, such as symptoms to look for, who to contact for medical attention and the use of an EpiPen. For more information on food allergies, visit the Food Allergies safety resource.
  • Preparation – If food is not prepared correctly, it can increase the chance for food borne illnesses to occur. It is very important to pay attention to cleanliness when preparing food. Make sure all staff and volunteers wash their hands before working with food and all utensils and cooking materials are clean. Additionally, ensure the foods you are using are not expired by checking the “use by” date and be sure to thoroughly wash all fruits and vegetables. To learn more about food preparation safety, visit the Food Safety – Preparing and Serving safety resource.  

Facility Safety – Hosting VBS at your facility typically means there is more equipment, materials and people around. To avoid accidents and injury, it is important to keep all of these extra items in tip top shape. Move all cords (speakers, microphones, projectors, etc.) away from walkways. If they must be there, tape them down with brightly colored tape for better visibility. Also, make sure all materials that may have been used for an activity or project are put away properly after use. Items left out and unattended may cause someone to trip. 

First Aid – With so many extra people, you can almost count on needing to use your First Aid kit during VBS, whether it be for a minor scrape or something more serious. Before the week begins, verify that your church or facility has a proper First Aid kit that is fully stocked, and consider training all staff and volunteers on First Aid basics and CPR. Additionally, create procedures on what to do in the event of a medical emergency, and educate all staff and volunteers on these procedures. Being prepared in the event of a medical emergency can help settle the situation and get the individual the necessary medical attention. 

By taking the above safety tips into consideration when planning and running your VBS this summer, it can help prevent unfortunate situations from taking place and allow for an overall great experience.  

This material is for information only and is not intended to provide legal or professional advice. You are encouraged to consult with your own attorney or other expert consultants for a professional opinion specific to your situation. This information is only a general description of the available coverages and is not a contract. In an effort to keep your policy coverage affordable, the actual policy contains certain limitations and exclusion. Please refer to your insurance policy for the pertinent contract language and coverages. Some coverages and discounts are not available in all states. GuideOne welcomes all applications, without regard to religion, race, color, national origin, sex, handicap or familial status.

Lindsay Taylor

Lindsay Taylor

Lindsay Taylor is a Marketing Coordinator for GuideOne Insurance, focusing on marketing communications and the co-op program.

In her free time, she enjoys dancing, running and spending time with friends and family.

5 Ways to Manage Food Allergies at Events

// Katie Rynard on Tuesday April 12, 2016

Snack time is a fun part of Sunday school, Vacation Bible School and other church activities, but peanut butter, milk and other seemingly innocent eats can make snacking scary for kids with food allergies. One out of every 13 children has a food allergy, according to Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), so it’s especially important to be mindful of what kids sip and munch on.

Here’s the good news: Being aware of food allergies—and how to act in emergency situations—makes it much easier to protect participants. These considerations will help ensure a safe, allergy-friendly environment for everyone:

  1. Create an action plan. Make sure your organization has legally compliant policies and procedures in place that provide direction on preventing and responding to allergic reactions. Not sure where to start? The National School Board Association has a comprehensive policy guide that also applies to church activities.
  2. Collect essential information. Ask parents to complete health and emergency contact forms so you can identify which participants have a food-allergy history. From there, you’ll want to know:
    • Trigger foods
    • Typical reactions
    • Treatments and medications
    • Healthcare providers’ contact info
  3. Train staff and volunteers. Make sure your team is fully aware of policies, procedures, allergic reaction warning signs and response strategies.
  4. Serve safe snacks. Because of the potential for allergies, avoid peanuts, tree nuts, dairy products and other foods that are most associated with allergic reactions in children. View a full list from FARE. And since cross-contact (scraping peanut butter off a knife and using that same knife to spread jelly on another sandwich, for instance) can create problems, here’s FARE’S fact sheet on how to avoid it.
  5. Keep tabs on medication. Some kids might need over-the-counter or prescribed antihistamines to relieve mild reactions and EpiPens for severe reactions. You’ll want all medications to be easily accessible. Review state laws for specifics on storage, access and administration of medication. 

Keeping these precautions in mind will go a long way in making snack time delicious, not dangerous.

This material is for information only and is not intended to provide legal or professional advice. You are encouraged to consult with your own attorney or other expert consultants for a professional opinion specific to your situation. This information is only a general description of the available coverages and is not a contract. In an effort to keep your policy coverage affordable, the actual policy contains certain limitations and exclusion. Please refer to your insurance policy for the pertinent contract language and coverages. Some coverages and discounts are not available in all states. GuideOne welcomes all applications, without regard to religion, race, color, national origin, sex, handicap or familial status.

Katie Rynard

Katie Rynard

Katie Rynard is a Corporate Communications Specialist at GuideOne Insurance.

When she's not at work, she enjoys decorating, traveling, trying new restaurants and spending time with her husband, daughter and dachshund puppy.

Making Thanksgiving (Leftovers) Last

// Taylor Vivant on Thursday November 26, 2015

As a day dedicated to family, friends, food and all things I’m grateful for, Thanksgiving is easily one of my favorite holidays. Not to mention, it’s the start of the holiday season, and who doesn’t get excited for that?

Speaking of Thanksgiving food – there’s a good chance you’ll be faced with a copious amount of leftovers from your feast, and you don’t want it all to go to waste. But, to make sure everyone gets the most satisfaction from leftovers, you should make sure the food is stored properly and safely. I know I’m always thankful for my health on Thanksgiving, and I wouldn’t want a case of foodborne illness to spoil that (pun intended). 

Bacteria in food are one of the biggest causes of foodborne illness (AKA food poisoning and foodborne infection and disease). There is a range of temperatures in which bacteria easily grow in food, referred to as the danger zone, and it is between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Within two hours of being served, food should be removed from the danger zone. 

Food in the fridge should be kept below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. To help get food to this temperature more quickly, consider dividing food into smaller containers. This will help keep the food cold and out of the danger zone. The storage length for food differs by type and location. View this chart for reference. As an example, your leftover turkey should be good to eat for three to four days in the fridge or two to six months in the freezer. 

When reheating your leftovers, be sure they are brought to the minimum safe temperature. Use a food thermometer to check your foods after heating. See this chart for reference. 

Make sure the joy and food of Thanksgiving lasts with safe leftover practices. And remember, we don’t need a holiday, like Thanksgiving, to appreciate all we’re grateful for. 

Looking for a new way to enjoy your leftovers? Check out Food Network’s 93 Thanksgiving leftover recipes! Get ready for an internal battle over which one to try first. 

 

Source: Food Safety News 

This material is for information only and is not intended to provide legal or professional advice. You are encouraged to consult with your own attorney or other expert consultants for a professional opinion specific to your situation. This information is only a general description of the available coverages and is not a contract. In an effort to keep your policy coverage affordable, the actual policy contains certain limitations and exclusion. Please refer to your insurance policy for the pertinent contract language and coverages. Some coverages and discounts are not available in all states. GuideOne welcomes all applications, without regard to religion, race, color, national origin, sex, handicap or familial status.

Taylor Vivant

Taylor Vivant

Taylor Vivant is a member of the Corporate Communications and Marketing team at GuideOne Insurance, where she assists in a variety of projects and tasks.

Away from work, she enjoys being active outdoors, adventuring with her friends and planning her next vacation.

Holiday Potluck Food Safety

// Natalie McCormick on Thursday December 11, 2014

One of my favorite parts of the holiday season is the food.  There’s turkey, ham, potatoes, deviled eggs, brisket, dinner rolls, green bean casserole, a veggie tray and, who can forget, the assorted desserts.  My favorite is my mom’s cherry cheesecake.  Besides a gut ache and potential sugar coma the indulging is totally worth it.  However, acquiring a case of food poisoning, or worse, causing it, would make anyone think twice before digging in.  Minimize those risks by following the tips below when hosting or contributing to a potluck. 

Food Prep

  • Wash your hands for 20 seconds before and after handling food.
  • Rinse fruits and vegetables - use a brush to remove any dirt. Do not wash or rinse meat or poultry.
  • Wash the utensils and countertops you’ll be using with hot, soapy water before and in between using each food item.
  • Use separate cutting boards for produce and meat and poultry.  Using a different colored cutting board for different items is an easy trick to prevent cross-contamination.
  • Separate raw, cooked and ready-to-eat foods while shopping, preparing or storing.
  • Keep juices from different food items from mixing.
  • Marinate meat, seafood and poultry in the refrigerator in a covered, non-metallic container.
  • To properly thaw frozen meat, it's best to plan for slow, safe thawing in the refrigerator. Allow about one day for every five pounds of meat to thaw in the refrigerator.
  • Many people assume that if a hamburger is brown in the middle, it is done. However, looking at the color and texture of food is not enough – use a food thermometer to be sure. 

Food Serving

  • If you’re traveling a long distance with a food dish, take nonperishable items, like bread or cookies.
  • When transporting a hot or cold dish, pack it in an insulated cooler to keep it at the right temperature.
  • Set out smaller dishes and replenish them as needed.  This can help keep your dish at a safe serving temperature.
  • Keep hot foods at 140 degrees or warmer. Consider a chaffing dish, crock pot or warming tray.
  • Keep cold foods on ice or replace them often to maintain a temperature of 45 degrees or cooler.
  • Don’t leave foods at room temperature for more than two hours.
  • If you refill empty platters of meat- or dairy-based foods, replace or wash them prior to refilling. Remaining food particles that have been sitting at room temperature may contaminate the fresh food.
  • Leave ready-to-eat foods containing eggs, meat and dairy products in the fridge until you serve them. This includes cream pies and cakes frosted with cream cheese or whipped topping (i.e. mom’s cherry cheesecake).
  • If some of your guests are running late, hold some of the temperature-sensitive foods to serve when they arrive. Keep the hot foods in the oven and the cold foods in the refrigerator.
  • Serve dips with a spoon to discourage double dipping.

 

Sources: Kraft, SafeChurch

This material is for information only and is not intended to provide legal or professional advice. You are encouraged to consult with your own attorney or other expert consultants for a professional opinion specific to your situation. This information is only a general description of the available coverages and is not a contract. In an effort to keep your policy coverage affordable, the actual policy contains certain limitations and exclusion. Please refer to your insurance policy for the pertinent contract language and coverages. Some coverages and discounts are not available in all states. GuideOne welcomes all applications, without regard to religion, race, color, national origin, sex, handicap or familial status.

Natalie McCormick

Natalie McCormick

Natalie McCormick is the Marketing Coordinator for GuideOne Insurance where she manages the direct mail program and assists with content marketing. 

When she's not at work she enjoys playing volleyball as well as perusing the local farmer's market.  If you can't find her outside you may find her inside reading a good book or baking a new recipe.