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Whether you want to spoil friends, family, or colleagues (or even just to treat yourself), we have a wide variety of delicious food hampers that are suitable for every occasion. With delightful selections of sweet and savoury food – including cheese, chutney, wine, chocolate, and more – every product is lovingly chosen by our experts!

But to thoroughly enjoy your treats, it is important to make sure you are storing the food items correctly and safely. With our fresh food gifts, the hampers are kept at 2°C and are sent for overnight delivery with icepacks to keep them cool – the packaging also helps to insulate them, so they arrive at your door in the best possible condition.

To get some expert advice into the subject, we questioned Marie-Louise Farag, Group Head Nutritionist at Cellnutrition, Jenna Brown, Environmental Health Practitioner and Food Safety Mum, and Dr Harriet Holme, Registered Nutritionist and Founder of Healthy Eating Dr, about how different food and drinks should be properly stored, as well as discussing the shelf-life of these items and how incorrect storage can cause health issues (such as food poisoning). Read on to find out more…

Eggs
Recommended storage – In the fridge

  • This ensures that eggs are stored at a constant temperature below 20C for optimum freshness and safety
  • Keep them in the container in which they come if possible and place them in the coolest part of the fridge
  • It’s not the best idea to store them in the fridge door due to the constant opening and closing of the door
  • However, it is important to remember if they are stored in a fridge, they must remain at this temperature until they are used.

Expiration – Approximately 3 weeks

  • Can be eaten up to a couple of days past BBE date, if fully cooked.
  • The best way to increase their shelf life is to hard boil them and keep them in the shells, in the fridge which should increase their shelf life by about a week or seven days

Cheese
Recommended storage – In the fridge

  • Hard cheeses wrapped in wax paper, soft cheese in a re-sealable container in the fridge
  • For optimal taste, get your cheese out of the fridge an hour before eating it

Expiration – Differs according to moisture content

  • Soft cheese can be kept in the fridge for 2 weeks after opening, semi soft for between 2-3 weeks (or frozen for 2 months), and hard cheese can be kept for between 2-4 months in the fridge (once opening this drops to about 6 weeks) or for up to 8 months in the freezer

Butter
Recommended storage – In the fridge

  • Avoid storing in the fridge door and store in an airtight container
  • Most butters do freeze well but it is best to wrap it in an additional freezer bag
  • Some people prefer to store butter at room temperature to allow it to be soft and easily spreadable. Use a glass butter dish and only put a quarter of half a block out at a time, and to prevent it from going rancid at room temperature, make sure it is out of direct sunlight and properly covered to help prolong the shelf life

Expiration – Between 3-5 months

  • Unsalted butter can be kept in the fridge or freezer for up to three months, while salted butter can last up to five months if properly sealed

Milk
Recommended storage – In the fridge

  • It is best stored in well sanitised glass bottles because glass is less porous and tends to keep the milk at a more constant temperature, and preferably placed on the middle rack
  • UHT milk can be stored in a cupboard until opened and then should be placed in the fridge

Expiration – Approximately 5-7 days before opening, and 2-3 days once opened

  • Whole milk can last between five to seven days, reduced fat milk seven days and plant-based milks three days once opened
  • Pasteurisation and ultra-heat-treated milk both prolong shelf life
  • A top tip to prolong the shelf-life of fresh milk is to throw in a pinch of normal kitchen salt too

Bread
Recommended storage – Cool dry place

  • Can be frozen and defrosted as needed to extend the shelf life
  • Refrigeration slows down growth of bacteria, but speeds up the process of the bread turning stale
  • Wrap bread in cling film or tin foil for storage in a cupboard or in a sealed bread tin

Expiration – Approximately 4-7 days

  • Shop bought bread mostly has preservatives and lasts approximately 5-7 days, whereas homemade bread (without preservatives) last up to 4-5 days

Fruit
Recommended storage – Varies fruit to fruit

  • Bananas should be left in an open fruit bowl on the countertop – they do not do well in the fridge
  • Apples can be stored in the fruit and veg drawer of the fridge, just cut a few holes in the plastic bag – they like a little humidity
  • Berries, including strawberries, tend to be more delicate and should always be kept cool and well protected in the fridge to prolong shelf life

Expiration – Varied fruit to fruit

  • When you start seeing visible quality changes
  • Frozen fruits should be kept for no longer than six months

Veg
Recommended storage – Varies vegetable to vegetable

  • Onions, garlic, potatoes that are better stored in a cool, dry dark place
  • Keep potatoes in a cool, dry, dark environment with lots of ventilation away from fruit that give off ethylene. Store cooked potatoes in the fridge, and cook/blanch before freezing
  • Storing tomatoes at room temperature extends their shelf life
  • The shelf life of carrots can be extended by putting them in a container filled with water, covering them with plastic and storing them in the fridge
  • Salad is best in the ‘crisper’ drawer in the fridge

Expiration – Varies vegetable to vegetable

  • Salad 1-2 days depending processing, potatoes can last a few months depending on storage
  • Frozen vegetables should be kept for no longer than 12 months

Meat
Recommended storage – In the fridge

  • Keep raw meat and cooked meat in totally separate containers to prevent any potential cross-contamination
  • Most raw meat should be properly sealed and placed in the coldest part of the fridge
  • Cooked meat should be stored away from raw meat but should still be stored in a fridge and tightly wrapped in an airtight container or cling film
  • Meats can be stored in a freezer; however, make sure they have been fully defrosted before use and they are only allowed to be re-frozen – check the packaging

Expiration

  • Raw meat should keep from between three to five days (at a push)
  • Processed meat (such as hamburgers or sausages) between 1-2 days
  • Poultry (pieces or whole) between 1-2 days
  • Steak/cut of meat between 3-5 days
  • Smaller portions can last up to 6 months if properly frozen

Chocolate
Recommended storage – Cool dry place

  • Chocolate, including the cacao and fats used to make it, can absorb the smells and tastes around it. It’s best stored in room temperature, away from direct sunlight in a glass container to best preserve it

Expiration – Between 1-2 years

  • Up to one year if opened and left properly sealed in the fridge
  • Unopened chocolate may be stored for up to two years in the fridge
  • Dark chocolate lasting longer than milk or white chocolate

Wine
Recommended storage – In the cupboard, fridge once opened

  • This all depends on whether the bottles are opened or closed
  • Long term storage should be around 13˙C (between 0-25˙C), with bottles kept horizontally, protected from sunlight and vibration.
  • Once opened, red wine can be stored in a dark cupboard but, like white wine, can also be stored in the fridge to help slow down the oxidation process
  • Always seal the bottle. It might not be as easy with fizz – a handy tip is to place a fork, spiky side up in the neck of the bottle – the metal gets colder than the glass creating a natural colder zone in the neck of the bottle to keep the fizz

Expiration – A couple of years

  • The shelf life of wine depends partly on quality and partly on storage condition
  • On average a white wine will last a couple of years, with red wine lasting a bit longer
  • Only approximately 1% of wines are able to be stored for extended periods of time
  • Once opened, wine should be consumed within two days for maximum benefit before oxidisation becomes noticeable. Placing both red and white wine in the fridge will help extend the shelf life

Condiments (e.g. chutneys, jams and sauces)
Recommended storage – Cupboard, and then in the fridge after opening

  • Most sauces can live in a dark and cool cupboard. However, mayonnaise (which contains egg) and preservative free sauces should be stored in glass bottles in the fridge after being opened
  • If in doubt, store it in the fridge

Expiration – 1-2 years

  • Many sauces contain acetic acid otherwise known as vinegar or brine which prolongs their shelf life considerably
  • One to two years unopened, if opened try to keep properly sealed and consume within four weeks
  • Processed shop bought chutneys and jams can last as long as a couple of years unopened, whereas sauces like mayonnaise last a few months if unopened
  • Jam and jelly can be frozen for up to one year

Jenna added that “as a general rule, any leftovers should be kept in the fridge for 2 days (1 day for rice) or if not going to be used within this time, frozen to use another day”.

As well as the food tasting unpleasant, there are more serious health risks related to eating expired or improperly stored food items. Jenna explains that ‘Use by’ dates “are there for your safety and shouldn’t be ignored. The most important thing to be aware of here is the difference between ‘Use by’ and ‘Best Before’. Essentially, ‘Use by’ dates are about safety, whereas ‘Best Before’ dates are about quality”.

Improper storage, poor hygiene, and not respecting use by dates are some of the most common methods of contamination. Harriet explained that “Food poisoning most commonly from the following microorganisms: Clostridium botulinum; Escherichia coli; Campylobacter; Salmonella; Staphylococcus aureus; Vibrio Spp.; Norovirus; Listeria; and Hepatitis A. Foods that are particularly susceptible to contamination include raw eggs, raw shellfish, unpasteurised milk, raw meat and poultry, soft cheeses, and cooked sliced meat, pre-packed sandwiches”.

Marie-Louise added that “low risk foods are foods that tend to have a longer shelf life and if they are stored incorrectly or over the use by date will not cause great side effects for the consumer. These foods are ambient stable such as bread, biscuits, cereals, and crisps”.
We hope the advice in the article helps to answer any questions you may have about food storage and expiration dates.

Disclaimer: The information in this story is accurate as of the publication date. Virginia Hayward are not liable or responsible for the accuracy of the advice provided by third party experts, nor for the content or operation of any third-party websites, webpages, or resources which have been linked to within this article.

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