Freezing and Food Safety

Do you know how long your foods last in the freezer? Food stored constantly at 0°F will always be food safe. Only the quality suffers with lengthy freezer storage.

Freezing keeps food safe by slowing the movement of molecules, causing microbes to enter a dormant stage. Freezing preserves food for extended periods because it prevents the growth of microorganisms that cause both food spoilage and foodborne illness.

Does Freezing Destroy Bacteria & Parasites?

Freezing to 0°F inactivates any microbes — bacteria, yeasts and molds — present in food. Once thawed, however, these microbes can again become active, multiplying under the right conditions to levels that can lead to foodborne illness. Since they will then grow at about the same rate as microorganisms on fresh food, you must handle thawed items as you would any perishable food.

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Trichina and other parasites can be destroyed by sub-zero freezing temperatures. However, very strict government-supervised conditions must be met. Home freezing cannot be relied upon to destroy trichina. Thorough cooking, however, will destroy all parasites.

The Golden Rules of Freezing Meals

To prevent those unwelcome discoveries in the back of your freezer, it helps to know how to freeze foods wisely in the first place. Keep in mind that when you freeze foods, you want to accomplish five things:

  • Prevent freezer burn.
  • Prevent moisture loss.
  • Prevent the transfer of smells to and from other foods.
  • Use what freezer space you have wisely.
  • Prevent food poisoning as your food cools.

Freezer Food Storage Chart

Here’s a helpful chart to let you know when you should use or toss. Don’t forget, your freezer should be set to 0°F or below for safety.