Health

Expiration, Use-By and Sell-By dates: What do they really mean?

person's hands holding food and looking at expiration date for food in the grocery store
Photo: Aviano Air Base

Often people open up their refrigerators, cupboards and cabinets to find foods that are beyond their sell- buy and use- buy dates. While it is always better to be safe than sorry, the following guidelines and information should help to take the guesswork out of determining whether or not your food is safe to eat.

Dating is not required by US Federal law, with the exception of infant formula and baby foods which must be withdrawn by their expiration date.  For all other foods, except dairy products in some states, freshness dating is strictly voluntary on the part of manufacturers.  For meat, poultry, and egg products under the jurisdiction of the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), dates may be voluntarily applied provided they are not misleading and labeled in a manner that is in compliance with FSIS regulations.  Also stores are not legally required to remove outdated products from their shelves.  In order to ensure you getting the freshest food, it is necessary to scrutinize packaging and purchase the items with the most recent date.  Although most markets are good about rotating their stock, some are not. If a store is properly stocked, the freshest items will be at the back of the shelf or underneath older items.

So what do these terms mean for consumers?

* Expiration Date:   If you have a product with an expired expiration date, throw it out.  While other dating terms are used as a basic guideline, this one is absolute.

*Best if Used-By and Use-By date:

“Use-By” or: Best if Used By” dates are a suggestion for when the food item will be at its best quality.  Food is generally safe if consumed past this date, but may have deteriorated in flavor, texture, or appearance.  “Use- By” dates are most often found on canned goods, dry goods, condiments, or other shelf stable items.  The Food and Drug Administration is supporting the food industry’s efforts to standardize the use of this on its packaged food labeling.

*Sell-By date:

Many fresh or prepared foods are labeled with a “Sell-By” date as a guide for how long the item should be displayed for sale before quality deteriorates.  Items are generally safe for consumption after this date, but may begin to lose flavor or eye appeal.  “Sell-By” dates are chosen with the assumption that the buyer may store or eat the item a few days after purchase.  To be sure your food is fresh and will keep at home, it is best not to buy items that are past their “ sell by” date.

*Guaranteed Fresh

This date is often used for perishable baked goods.  Beyond this date, freshness is no longer guaranteed, although it may still be edible.

*Pack date:

This is the date the item was packed, most often used on canned and boxed items.  It is usually in the form of a code and not easy to decipher.  It may be coded by month(M), day (D) and year (Y) such as YYMMDD or MMDDYY.  Or it may be coded using Julian numbers, where January 1 would be 001 and December 31 would be 365.   These time stamps are generally a reference to the date, time, and location of the manufacture and not be confused with expiration dates.  “Sell-By” or “ Best-By” may also be included on the can code.

So all of this assumes foods are stored at the right temperature.  Foods not refrigerated properly – whether at home or at the store – wont keep as long regardless of what the freshness date says.  So how long are foods good after the package date?  According to the US Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service:

  • Milk is good for about a week after the “sell by” date
  • Eggs can keep for three to five weeks beyond the “sell by” date
  • Fresh chicken, turkey and ground meats should be cooked or frozen within two days
  • Fresh beef, pork and lamb should be cooked or frozen within three to five days

Cooking or freezing extends the amount of time a food will keep.  Use your eyes and nose too, to determine if foods are fresh, regardless of the date on the package.

So here are some food storage hints and tips:

  • Once opened, many of the dates become obsolete since the contents now become perishable. It is advisable to use food as quickly as possible after opening them.
  • Be sure to refrigerate leftovers in a covered container (not a can) and use within 3 to 5 days.
  • Some canned foods (like condiments and pickled foods) will have a longer shelf life if refrigerated. Most condiments will have a warning to refrigerate after opening on the label.
  • When buying foods always check the expiration date. Choose the date farthest in the future for optimum shelf life.
  • Like the grocery, rotate your stock at home. Rather than trying to determine the codes on cans, use a marker to write the purchase date on cans and packaged goods.
  • Whatever the expiration date, do not open or use cans that are bugling or oozing from the seams, or those that are heavily dented.
  • Most baking mixes contain fats which will become rancid with time and leaveners that lose their potency. Check the dates.
  • The best storage temperature for canned foods is 65 degrees F. Higher storage temperatures can reduce shelf-life up to 50 percent.  Most canned goods can be stored up to 1 year under optimal temperatures.
  • Canned foods should never be frozen. The freezing expansion can split the seams of the can or break the glass.
  • Generally, foods canned in glass have a longer shelf-life, but they must be stored in the dark since light can accelerate some natural chemical reactions.
  • Look at cellophane, plastic and box packages at the store to be sure they have not been punctured or torn. Once the seal is penetrated, shelf-life of the contents is drastically shortened.
  • Bring food home quickly from the store and store it properly for maximum shelf life.
  • Trust your vision and smell- if it looks and/or smells bad throw it out.
  • A resource available for consumers online with questions about how to keep perishable foods is: The FoodKeeper App (https://www.foodsafety.gov/keep/foodkeeperapp/index.html)

 

Resources:

www.fsis.usda.gov

www.nrdc.org/food/expiration-dates.asp

www.urbanext.illinois.edu/thrifyliving/tl-foodfreshness.html

http://www.onthetable.net/freshness_dates.html

http://www.nutrition411.com/patient-education-materials/food-safety/

 

Article by: Sherry Gray, MPH, RD, Extension Educator, UConn EFNEP

Updated: September 30, 2019

Attend the CT Ag Wellness Summit

Ag Wellness Save the Date postcardStress has many causes and is a serious problem for those involved in agriculture. Unfortunately many folks try to deal with this quietly, showing a stiff upper lip, and by themselves – not the healthiest route to take. Join us in learning more about how to identify stressors,  understanding ways to help yourself, and equally important, how to identify signs so you may be able to help your friends and colleagues.

This FREE one day “CT Ag Wellness Summit: Helping You to Help Others” is for farmers, producers, and ag service providers. Download the flyer and registration information. This important summit is a collaboration between the UConn Dept. of Extension and Dept. of Plant Science & LA, CT Department of Agriculture, CT Farm Bureau, Farm Credit East, CT Veterinary Medical Association, Tufts Veterinary Medical Center, CT NOFA, USDA-Risk Management Agency and CT Department of Mental Health & Addiction Services.

Date:     Thursday, December 5, 2019

Time:    8:30 am – 3:30 pm

Where: Maneeley’s Conference Center, South Windsor

Cost:     FREE

Halloween is coming, but you can eat healthy

Halloween can be can be scary time of year for folks trying eat healthy. How do you stay selfish with your health when there are so many temptations?

Change your mind!

Have a plan:

Use apps to track your calories – so you know the true calorie cost of eating candy, or another helping of food.

Start a new tradition:

Butternut squash soup | by zrzka2010 Butternut squash soup | by zrzka2010
Butternut squash soup | by zrzka2010

Eat a healthy meal before trick or treating. Try a hearty vegetable soup with lots of harvest fresh vegetables –

Support your local farmer- give trick or treaters small apples or pears for healthy alternatives to candy

Give trick or treaters non-food items like pencils or stickers

Track your steps around the neighborhood while trick or treating –

Have a Healthy Halloween Dance party instead of trick or treating – make healthy Halloween foods like the Pear Witch Project 

Halloween witch made with a pear and other healthy foods

Try visiting your local farmers markets and farms for the season’s local harvest!

 

For more practical ideas on how to improve your low-income client’s food and nutrition behaviors contact the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program for a series of free nutrition and cooking classes at your agency.

Article by: Heather Pease Nutrition Outreach Educator, Hartford County Extension

Canine Circovirus in Connecticut, Identified by UConn Researchers

CVMDL vet lab blue sign on the UConn campus with the brick Chemistry building in the background
Connecticut Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory on Jan. 14, 2019. (Sean Flynn/UConn Photo)

Investigators at the Connecticut Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (CVMDL) at UConn recently reported a new canine disease, identified for the first time in New England. This is the same group, same laboratory, that recently reported eastern equine encephalomyelitis in horses and birds and earlier recognized epizootic hemorrhagic disease in deer (September 2017) and West Nile encephalitis in crows (2001).

The published case report (Journal of Veterinary Diagnostic Investigation, September 2019) documents the death of a 5-month-old dog that originated in Mississippi, was shelter-housed in Texas for a time, and then was delivered for adoption in Connecticut. The disease was characterized by severe bloody gastroenteritis and rapid progression to death. Autopsy was followed by electron microscopy and molecular techniques which demonstrated a circovirus as the cause of disease and death. First recognized in California in 2013, the appearance of canine circovirus disease in New England, in dogs shuttled among shelters, raises concerns for dog owners and veterinarians.  At this time, it is hard to know if this disease will spread, like parvovirus disease in the 1980s, or remain sporadic.

CVMDL, part of the Department of Pathobiology in UConn’s College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources, is on the frontlines of research and testing to keep humans and animals safe. For more information visit http://cvmdl.uconn.edu or call 860-486-3738.

Article by Dr. H. J. Van Kruiningen

Services Available for Connecticut Families

a bunch of people's hands all together in one signifying unity and collaborationConnecticut Council of Family Service Agencies (CCFSA) is strengthening Connecticut communities and collectively serves more than 180,000 families, making them one of the largest associations of community-based human services for children, adults and families. All members are nationally accredited, nonprofit, human service agencies. Together they form a collaborative statewide system of support for all phases of family life, working with government and philanthropy to meet our mission.

The Victims of Crime Case Management Program (VOCA) is one service offered.

Program Description

•   VOCA Case Management (CM) is funded through the Office of Victim Services and administered by CCFSA (Connecticut Council Of Family Service Agencies) to address an identified need of case management services for victims of crime

•   VOCA CM provides holistic case management services to promote safety, self-sufficiency, and resiliency for persons in CT who have suffered, directly or indirectly, a physical, emotional, or personal loss as a result of a criminal act

•   VOCA CM offers community-based or home-based visits depending on the preference and need of the client

•   VOCA CM will promote equitable access to services and a continuum of care through coordination with CCFSA partner agencies across the state

*Case management services are offered for up to a year, depending on clients’ need

Referrals

•   Clients can be referred internally through United Services, or externally through other community organizations, local law enforcement, hospitals, schools, etc.

•   Participation in VOCA CM is voluntary and clients should be aware of referral

•   Anyone can access the following URL to make referrals:

Willimantic/Norwich area https://tinyurl.com/VOCAintakeCCDN

Dayville/Wauregan/Mansfield : https://tinyurl.com/VOCAintakeUS

•   Using the URL is preferred to capture all necessary information, but referrals can be made in-person, over phone, or over email

•   Referral form is extensive in order to capture victimization history, safety concerns, and needs of client

•   Case manager will attempt to reach client within 24-72 hours after referral is made

Eligibility

•   Participation in VOCA CM will be based on the client meeting at least one of the following:

•   The victimization occurred in CT

•   The victim lived in CT when the victimization occurred and/or

•   The victim lived in CT at the time services were sought

•   No age requirements; if client is a minor or disabled, case manager will work with the entire family unit to provide case management services

•   No time limit; does not matter how long ago the crime occurred, just that the crime is still affecting the client’s functioning

•   It is not necessary for the crime to have been reported to receive case management services

•   DCF-involved youth and/or their foster families can receive case management services

•   Can work with victims even if they have a criminal history themselves

Eligible Crimes for Case Management

•   Adult physical assault

•   Adult sexual assault

•   Adult sexually abused/physically abused as child

•   Arson

•   Bullying (verbal, physical, cyber)

•   Burglary, robbery

•   Child physical or sexual abuse, neglect

•   Elder abuse or neglect

•   Domestic violence, teen dating violence

•   Child pornography or exploitation

•   Hate crime

•   Human trafficking (labor or sex)

•   Identity theft/fraud/financial crime

•   Kidnapping (custodial or non-custodial)

•   Mass violence, terrorism

•   DUI/DWI incident, “hit and run”

•   Stalking/harassment

•   Survivors of homicide victims

•   Other

Services We Provide

•   Intake and assessment are completed to identify client’s level of need and what services they are seeking assistance with

•   Goal-setting and empowering victims to reach goals and complete follow-up

•   Assistance with finding housing (shelter or permanent), employment and vocational training, child or adult education, state benefits and/or insurance, child-care, parenting education, pregnancy services, medical/dental services, mental health/counseling services, and much more

•   The case manager will assist client by making referrals to other agencies and providers, helping client complete applications, identifying and utilizing local resources, and helping client establish a good community support system for when case management services end

•   Assistance navigating civil or criminal court system

•   Applications for victim compensation

Victim Compensation Program

•   Office of Victim Services compensation program provides three types of compensation:

•   Crime victims who have suffered physical injuries – $15,000 maximum

•   Crime victims who have suffered emotional injuries – $5,000 maximum

•   Survivors of homicide victims – $25,000 maximum

•   To be eligible, crimes must be reported within 5 days of the occurrence, or within 5 days of “when a report could reasonably be made”

•   Crimes must be reported to law enforcement, court system (if client applies for a restraining or civil protective order) or DV/sexual assault crisis center

•   Compensation applications must be filed within 2 years of the crime

•   Expenses covered: health insurance co-pays and deductibles, medical bills, prescription bills, lost wages, crime scene clean-up, funeral expenses, mental health counseling, alarm system installations, etc.

Other important information:

If the client is in immediate crisis, please contact 911.

Have your Soil Tested for Macro & Micro Nutrients

cup of soil being held in Soil Nutrient analysis lab at UConn

Send your soil sample in for testing now. Our standard nutrient analysis includes pH, macro- and micro nutrients, a lead scan and as long as we know what you are growing, the results will contain limestone and fertilizer recommendations. The cost is $12/sample. You are welcome to come to the lab with your ‘one cup of soil’ but most people are content to simply place their sample in a zippered bag and mail it in. For details on submitting a sample, go to UConn Soil and Nutrient Laboratory.

Farm to School Month

It’s here! National Farm to School Month, which means its time for the HardCORE Challenge – eat a #CTGrown Apple or Pear to the CORE!


Follow this link to find an Orchard near you.

Fall is the quintessential time to visit a farm with apple and pear picking, corn mazes, pumpkin patches, cider donuts and so much more!

We will be celebrating local agriculture the whole month – CT Grown for CT Kids Week is October 7-11th with National School Lunch Week October 14-18th. Check out the National Farm to School month toolkit  for wonderful ideas to celebrate the whole month!

Learn more, find recipes, and see participating schools at the website for Put Local On Your Tray.

Information About EEE from CVMDL at UConn

mosquito biting a person
2003
CDC/James Gathany
Photographer: James Gathany
This is an Ochlerotatus triseriatus mosquito obtaining a blood meal from a human hand.
Also known as Aedes triseriatus, and commonly known as the ”treehole mosquito”, this species is a known West Nile Virus vector.
Photo by James Gathany, Centers for Disease Control

Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) is a disease caused by a virus that mosquitos transmit. The name of the disease is misleading in that this virus can infect and cause disease in humans and a wide variety of animal species, including birds as well as horses and other equids. Horses that have not been vaccinated for EEE die within days of being infected as there is no treatment. There is an effective equine vaccine for EEE, however not for other species. Researchers and veterinarians UConn’s Connecticut Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (CVMDL) encourage equine owners to consider vaccinating their animals, and other animal owners to implement measures to reduce mosquito habitats and thereby potential contact with mosquitos.

Mosquitos that feed on infected wild birds transmit EEE to horses and humans. Once infected, the virus attacks the central nervous system of the host. For horses, disease signs usually appear within five days and the clinical signs include fever, a dull or sleepy appearance, muscle twitches, and a weak staggering gait. Fatality in horses is 90% or higher as horses often go down and are unable to stand again, and those that do survive may have permanent brain damage.

EEE is transmitted by two main types of mosquito vectors; the primary vector and the bridging vector. Culiseta melanura, the primary vector which feeds almost exclusively on birds, serves to amplify and maintain the virus within wild bird populations. Other mosquito species, which indiscriminatingly feed on birds, horses, and humans, serve as the bridging vector capable of transmitting EEE from wildlife to horses and humans.

With the location of horse barns and pastures in rural areas the animals have increased exposure to mosquitos. Horses cannot pass EEE to humans, or to other horses, and are therefore referred to as a dead-end host. If an infected mosquito bites a human, that person can be infected and may develop disease. According to the Center for Disease Control, illness in humans due to EEE is rare, but when disease develops, it is serious.

Proactive steps can be taken to prevent EEE virus infection in humans and horses. A vaccine is available for horses, talk to your veterinarian about vaccinating annually for EEE. Mosquito control techniques include eliminating standing water, cleaning water troughs weekly, avoiding mosquito-infested areas, and using insect repellent.

CVMDL, part of the Department of Pathobiology in UConn’s College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources, is on the frontlines of research and testing to keep humans and animals safe. For more information visit http://cvmdl.uconn.edu or call 860-486-3738.

 

Reference

LSU Ag Center Research and Extension: http://www.lmca.us/PDF/pub2834eee.pdf

Registration Open for CT Trail Symposium

trail symposium header showing person's feet walking in woods and logos of sponsors

We in Connecticut, over the last decade, have made great progress in building and connecting our trail systems.  So much so that the Connecticut Greenways Council believes now is the time to celebrate and shout about our trail systems assuring that all members of our communities can gather, recreate, relax, run errands and even commute or travel together. This year, the Symposium hopes to offer sessions that focus on engaging with state and local tourism and marketing resources as well as technology that can maximize effective delivery of your trail information.

Shout it Out! The Connecticut Trails Symposium is Thursday, October 24th at Goodwin College in East Hartford. We have a lineup of trails and tourism workshops and presenters for attendees. Registration is open – see the full agenda and register to attend at https://cttrails.uconn.edu/2019symposium/

Co-sponsors include: Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (DEEP), Connecticut Forest & Park Association, and Connecticut Greenways Council.

Fall Updates from UConn Extension

food, health and sustainability venn diagram

UConn Extension is pleased to share the following updates with you:

  • An update on the strategic planning process for the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources, as well as internal re-organization of Extension program teams.
  • Our UConn CLEAR program worked with the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection on a sea level rise model map viewer, and a webinar is being offered on October 16th.
  • UConn Extension, and our Connecticut Trail Census program will be at the Connecticut Trails Symposium on Thursday, October 24th at Goodwin College in East Hartford.
  • We have two part-time positions open at the Hartford County Extension Center in Farmington. Applications are due by Thursday, October 3rd.
  • We are growing food and health with the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation in Ledyard through a USDA-NIFA grant.

Read all of our updates.