Editors’s Note: Okay, before we get started with Dr. Greger’s advice, a bit of a caveat. Many of us are considerably more daring than the guidelines below recommend. Many of us LOVE dumpstered cut melon with no ill effect, for example. And while some of us are strict vegans, others will eat recovered meat, provided it hasn’t been sitting out in heat for any length of time. That said, if you really want to play it safe, you can’t get much better that the advice of a nutrition expert like Dr. Greger.
Freegan Food Safety Tips
by Dr. Michael Greger, MD
Product dating is not required by federal regulations and varies by state to state. “Sell by” or “use by” dates are NOT safety dates. They tend to denote either how long a product can remain on store shelves or when they are recommended to be eaten for best flavor or quality. Properly stored, unopened packaged foods can typically be eaten safely for days after these dates have passed.
FOODS TO AVOID
Stay away from meat (including all seafood), eggs, dairy, sprouts, cut melon, and unpasteurized cider/juice. A few hours outside of refrigeration can potentially allow bacteria counts to reach dangerous levels in these foods. Also stay away from anything that someone else had started eating as one can get communicable diseases like hepatitis, etc.
DECONTAMINATE ANYTHING THAT TOUCHES MEAT
Wash hands thoroughly (lather with antibacterial soup for a full 20 seconds and rinse under warm running water) after touching any sort of raw meat (including all seafood).
NEVER take a chance on cans that are bulging or oozing from the seam.
WHAT ABOUT MOLDY FOODS?
Hard or firm foods such as cabbages, bell peppers, potatoes, zuccini, apples, pears, broccoli, garlic, onions with tiny mold spots can be trimmed– cut away the area around the mold (at least an inch) and rewrap in clean wrap. Make sure that knife does not touch the mold.
Soft foods such as bread, muffins, bagels, leafy vegetables, cooked grains, tomatoes should be tossed at the first sign of mold. Even though there may be just a bit of visible mold, the mold roots can penetrate very deeply into these softer foods.
WASH FRUITS AND VEGGIES
All raw fruits and vegetables should be scrubbed under running water (and those who are at high risk for food poisoning may want to avoid raw produce altogether). Those that are at high risk for food poisoning in general should be especially cautious:
-Immunocompromised persons (AIDS/HIV, steroids, chemotherapy, diabetes mellitus, cancer)
-Persons with liver disease
-Persons with decreased stomach acidity (due to gastric surgery or antacid use)
If it looks bad and/or smells bad, chuck it. IF IN DOUBT THROW IT BACK OUT.