It’s easy to tell when some things have been around for too long. But figuring out the freshness of other items in your kitchen is not always so obvious. Here are seven things you may need to toss out right now.
Latte or Coffee with Milk
Here’s a question for all you morning latte lovers: Ever take a sip of after it’s been sitting on your desk or counter for hours? Well, unrefrigerated milk can start to grow bacteria in as little as 10 minutes. Because today’s milk is pasteurized, it won’t taste sour, but that doesn’t mean it’s still safe to drink. Since a latte’s full of milk, it’s best to toss after about an hour if you haven’t finished it.
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From the outside, it’s tough to tell if eggs have gone bad. After all, they can last several weeks after the use-by date stamped on the carton. But if you’re not sure, a good test is to place an egg in a bowl of cold water. Fresh eggs should sink to the bottom. An egg that sinks but stands on its point should be used quickly, and floating eggs are no good. For a longer lifespan, keep eggs in their carton on the lower fridge shelves where it’s coldest. There they’ll stay fresher longer. Avoid the built-in egg tray, which can get too warm from the door getting opened often.
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You may have bought some ground cumin a few years back to make your grandmother’s favorite recipe, and it’s still in your spice drawer. That’s okay because spices last forever, right? Not exactly. Spices don’t necessarily spoil, but they do lose their strength and taste over time. To get the most out of your spices, store them in tightly sealed containers in a cool, dark place to lock out moisture and keep them fresh. A good rule of thumb is to toss ground spices, herbs and seeds after a year. Whole spices, herbs and flowers will keep fresh for about one to two years. Seeds stay fresh two to three years. Ground roots should be discarded after two years, while whole roots will keep for three years.
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Pizza and Leftovers
Next, when entertaining, it’s best to avoid letting certain food, like pizza, sit out for more than two hours. Your chances of getting food poisoning from bacteria growth increase the longer perishable foods sit at room temperature. Leftovers can be stored in the fridge for three to four days. Refrigeration slows bacterial growth on food, but it’s still there. Play it safe and always reheat leftovers to prevent food poisoning. It may be tempting, but think twice before reaching for that cold slice of pizza!
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Now when it comes to food safety, the youngest family members are most susceptible to foodborne illness. The healthiest is to feed them from a bowl instead of straight from the baby food jar. The spoon can transfer germs from saliva to the jar, causing bacterial growth. Never return uneaten food to the jar, and use a clean spoon to add food from the jar to the dish. Previously opened baby food jars can be stored in the fridge for 24 hours.
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Your Dish Sponge
The kitchen may the germiest room in your house, but the dish sponge is the single dirtiest item. Believe it or not, it’s actually worse than the toilet seat or bathroom faucet. The tiny spaces that make sponges perfect for cleaning also make them cozy homes for bacteria that can cause food poisoning, the flu or even staph infections. You can disinfect them by zapping a soaked sponge in the microwave for a couple minutes or running them through the high-heat cycle in your dishwasher. Allow dish sponges to dry completely between uses, and never use them to clean up after raw eggs, meat or fish. Experts suggest tossing dish sponges every two weeks.
While you’re ridding your kitchen of germs, check the cabinets for chipped or broken dishes. When a glass or plate cracks, the sanitary seal gets broken, allowing bacteria to take root. Washing won’t help, so it’s best just to throw them out.
What are some other kitchen items you recommend tossing? Connect with me on Twitter @Farnoosh and use the hashtag #finfit.