Shelf Life of Food Bank Products

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Shelf Life of Food Bank Products Second Harvest Food Bank often distributes food items after the date on the package. This food is still safe to eat! Food manufacturers use different date codes to ensure that consumers receive their product at peak quality. Once a product is past code date, many manufacturers donate it to food banks. Food Bank staff monitors this food to ensure that the quality remains good. This provides a reference for the “shelf life” of this product, or how long these foods are good past code date. How to use this guide: The first section of the guide provides a brief introduction to how manufacturers use dates to code their food for purchase. Then, the guide offers a series of charts that offer guidance on how long different foods can be safely consumed past the date stamped on the packaging. The foods listed in this guide are organized according to the following categories:  Shelf-Stable Foods, pp. 4-6: anything that can be stored at room temperature before opening. This category includes baby foods, condiments, canned goods, and dry goods.  Shelf-Stable Beverages, p. 7: Juices, soda, water, and other drinks designed to be stored at room temperature until opening. Not to be confused with beverages that must be kept refrigerated.  Foods Purchased Refrigerated, p. 8: This category includes beverages that must be kept cold. Many of these items can be frozen after purchase to increase their storage time. This guide indicates how long an item can be expected to keep in the refrigerator or freezer.  Foods Purchased Frozen, p. 9: Foods that would be found in the freezer section of a grocery store. These foods should be stored frozen until they are to be used, and should be pulled only as needed for immediate distribution.  Fresh Meats, p. 10: This includes meats distributed frozen through the food bank. These meats were frozen on or before the sell-by date marked on each package. Meats will keep indefinitely when stored at freezer temperatures. They should be pulled from the freezer only as needed for immediate distribution.  Prepared Foods, p. 11: Prepared dips, side dishes, salads, etc. These items are sometimes available from the Shop-Thru cooler at Second Harvest Food Bank, or may be available through other donation streams. These items are generally perishable and you should pay close attention to how long the best by date can be extended safely.  Fresh Produce, p. 11: There are too many factors with fresh produce to provide a reliable timeline for how long certain items will be good. However, we have provided some tips for how to store certain items for longest life and best flavor. This guide offers a fairly thorough list of foods that may be distributed by Second Harvest Food Bank. It is not, however, exhaustive, and some items that you receive may not be covered by the guidance included. REV 7/2014 1 | P a g e

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