TODAY   |  April 04, 2014

Cleaning your fridge: What to keep, what to toss

TODAY diet and nutrition editor Madelyn Fernstrom explains how long it’s safe to keep eggs, packaged cold cuts and yogurt in your refrigerator, and offers advice about when you should consume frozen foods.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

the past, yet totally new. and that's new lancaster.

>>> back on this try day friday.

>> package of deli meat or three old carton leftover, it must be safe to eat.

>> maybe it is not. if all those used by and sell by dates have you confused, you're not alone. don't worry. madelyn fernstrom is here to help you spring clean that refrigerator.

>> hello.

>> hello.

>> so there is so much food waste nowadays and couple of things you may not know, all the labels about sell by, use by, are voluntary. nothing mandatory about this except for baby formula . the second is that a lot of this is for quality, not safety. so when you see something that says sell by date , that means the last day a supermarket or any retailer can sell something legally. they have to take it off the shelf. that's to rotate their stock. the other more confusing is use by. most oftentimes this is for quality, not safety, but there are some limits. you can't keep stuff in your fridge and freezer forever.

>> if there is glunk at the bottom of your milk, you'll get sick.

>> right.

>> hoda.

>> that's what part of our game is today. is it going to be keep or toss. let's play keep or toss. so now we have some eggs. this says use by today. today, use by today. would you keep --

>> keep it definitely. i would keep it.

>> you're right. you keep this because it just means it will be fine for at least two or three weeks at proper temperature. but don't leave the eggs in that little egg container, that cute thing on the side, put it in the middle of the fridge they need to remain cold. a lot of the regulations are all due to -- next, deli turkey. this is --

>> that starts to get gel on it.

>> purchased six days ago.

>> definitely keep.

>> i say toss.

>> i've eaten six day old turkey slices. put it here.

>> they're in the toss.

>> they get a gel on them.

>> they do. this is good for the sell by date . you have to ask the deli guy when did they open the big loaf because when they cut it, you get more days.

>> all right. toss it. what else?

>> yogurt. this says sell by today.

>> sell by.

>> sell by today.

>> no. toss anything milky.

>> no, no. you can keep this. actually for about seven to ten days because it just -- it says, for optimal taste and freshness. that will be fine.

>> yogurt, i don't know.

>> condiments, ketchup. this says -- this label says best if used by two months ago.

>> no, keep that forever.

>> keep. you can have this for six months or more. in the refrigerator, if it is in your pantry, just the month. it will go bad. continue cal let typical leftovers, chinese food or pizza. eaten four days ago.

>> i toss it.

>> you don't have to. but this is the last day, three to four days, but use your judgment. it has got to have been in the fridge, can't be running around --

>> if it smells, toss it.

>> that's amazing. if i bought chinese food on monday, i could eat it again on thursday?

>> up to four days. that's the outside limit. you can keep this.

>> wow. i'm going to put that on the line.

>> i think that's fair. that's the last day of use.

>> i know too much.

>> let's look at -- i'll use the bagged lettuce. best by yesterday.

>> that's okay. that's a keep.

>> and how long can you keep it?

>> two days.

>> no, longer.

>> you can keep it longer if you don't mind having little gnarly pieces or things may be a little wilted. quality, not about safety.

>> i used to work in a restaurant and they would take big vats of lettuce that was brown on the edges and throw it into a vat of water with some kind of chemical and it eats away the brown stuff. and then you served it. that's what we did.

>> where was this restaurant?

>> i can't tell. that's what we did. that was my job.

>> these are quality issues, not safety issues. now we have ground beef. this is sell by four days ago.

>> i don't trust anything.

>> i say toss.

>> you can really only save this for a day or two. it is vhighly vulnerable to getting bacteria. so chuck this stuff. now we'll go to --

>> last one.

>> two things, frozen pofor six months.

>> keep it.

>> you can keep it. that will be great. stuff loses freshness.

>> freezer burn .

>> frozen for ten months, can you keep it?

>> ten months. throw it away.

>> you're one to talk!

>> oh, you're right.

>> i don't freeze food that's been cooked.

>> this is one to toss but you could keep it because it won't -- it won't make you sick, but it will get freezer burnt, ice on top. and then you'll have science experiments in your freezer or fridge.