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Educating Consumers on Food Storage and Food Waste Prevention

Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS)


Carol Blake, Assistant Administrator, Office of Public Affairs and Consumer Education, FSIS


FSIS will undertake outreach activities to educate consumers, including the USDA workforce, about safe food storage, package dating, and the benefits of and steps to successfully reduce food waste.

Activity 1

Update the safe-storage and date-labeling information on FSIS website to stress to consumers that food that is past date is likely still safe to eat and need not be discarded.  FSIS website is viewed by consumers worldwide.

Complete by July 2013

For example, FSIS’s popular Fact Sheets were viewed over 8,702,000 times last year and Ask Karen. Ask Karen answers were viewed over 1,131,700 times. Both vehicles will be expanded to give consumers more information on how long foods will keep before going bad.

In addition, these two communication vehicles will be updated on the Spanish webpage and Preguntele A Karen.

The following three messages will be used to prevent the needless waste of food:

  • Food poisoning bacteria does not grow in the freezer so no matter how long food is frozen it is safe to eat.  Freezer burn is a quality issue, not a safety one.
  • Most ‘best by’ and ‘use by’ dates indicate manufacturer’s recommendations for best quality, not safety.
  • Canned foods will be safe indefinitely as long as the can is intact and has not been exposed to severe temperatures (below freezing or above 90°F).

Activity 2

Update the 10-year old online FoodKeeper Resource, which provides food storage information on a wide range of products, to cover more products and include new food products. 

Completed March 2014 (revised)

Activity 3

Create a nationwide consumer education campaign in English and Spanish.  This campaign will target a diverse range of consumers, including underserved populations.  Focus on practical messages with helpful information about safe food storage and food waste. These messages will be disseminated through social media outlets such as blogs, tweets, podcasts, and YouTube videos.  

Completed Second Quarter FY2015 (revised)

Activity 4

Develop, pilot test, and post (in partnership with the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and Cornell University) a FoodKeeper Application/widget to provide consumers with another user-friendly option to access good searchable information on food storage, proper storage temperatures, food product dating, and expiration dates.   The App will be owned by FMI, but USDA will use the web-based feed developed and maintained by Cornell University to create a widget that can be shared on web sites and Facebook.  Also, the web-based feed will be accessible for mobile web pages.

Completed March 2014 (revised)