Reader’s Question: Is Freezer Burn Safe?

by Jenn @ Frugal Upstate on September 30, 2009

Photo by Magnetisch

Photo by Magnetisch

I mentioned in this week’s Menu Plan that I would be cooking some frozen hamburger patties in gravy to hide a little bit of freezer burn.  This prompted the following comment from Alice:

You mentioned that you would use some hamburger patties that are a little freezer burned.

How do you know when something is too freezer burned to eat? I tend to error on the “better throw it out” side, but then feel terrible for wasting something. I try not to let things get lost in the freezer, but we all know that happens to everyone.

I know the “experts” say to keep meat in the freezer no longer than about 90 days or so — I’m not sure who made up that rule and whether it’s really valid or not.

Well Alice, my gut instinct tells me that freezer burn effects the quality of the food, but not the actual safety.  However I by no means am an authority figure on food safety so I went searching for a little more factual backup!

Who could be more authoritative on food safety than the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)?   According to the USDA article on freezing safety, my gut was right.  They state that freezer burn does not make items unsafe, just dry in spots.

As for the 90 day thing I know I’ve eaten vacuum sealed & frozen Venison that is a full year old with no ill effects.   At the same link quoted above the USDA  states that food stored constantly at 0 °F will “always” be safe.  Freezing to 0 °F inactivates, but does not kill, the microbes in food, so once you defrost it, the microbes become active again.  And if your freezer doesn’t get to 0°F then all bets are off! (yes, they do sell freezer thermometers if you want to be sure)

So there you have it!  Do you have a question for Frugal Upstate? Feel free to ask either her or by using my Contact Form

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