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New USDA 'FoodKeeper' App: Your New Tool for Smart Food Storage

Posted by Christopher Bernstein, Food Safety Education Staff, Food Safety and Inspection Service, USDA in Health and Safety
Apr 02, 2015
Image of person using app in refrigerator. Text overlay reads: “Are these leftovers still good? There’s an app for that now, the FoodKeeper.”
Have questions about items in your refrigerator or pantry? USDA has a new app that can help.

How many times have you gone into your pantry or refrigerator, only to find that what you were going to use in your meal was spoiled? The USDA, Cornell University and the Food Marketing Institute would like to help you avoid that problem in the future with our new application, the FoodKeeper.

Every year, billions of pounds of good food go to waste in the U.S. because home cooks are not sure of the quality or safety of items. USDA estimates that 21% of the available food in the U.S. goes uneaten at the consumer level. In total, 36 pounds of food per person is wasted each month at the retail and consumer levels!

Our new application will help you understand how different storing methods affect a product’s shelf life. This should help you maximize the storage life of foods and beverages in your home. In addition, the application can remind you to use items before they are likely to spoil.

Application Features

The FoodKeeper application offers users valuable storage advice about more than 400 food and beverage items, including various types of baby food, dairy products and eggs, meat, poultry, produce, seafood, and more. With the application you can:

  • Find specific storage timelines for the refrigerator, freezer, and pantry, depending on the nature of the product;
  • Get cooking tips for cooking methods of meat, poultry and seafood products;
  • Note in your devices’ calendar when products were purchased and receive notifications when they are nearing the end of their recommended storage date;
  • Search the application with swipe gestures or voice control; and,
  • Submit a question to USDA using the ‘Ask Karen’ feature of the application. ‘Ask Karen’ is USDA’s 24/7 virtual representative. The system provides information about preventing foodborne illness, safe food handling and storage, and safe preparation of meat, poultry, and egg products.

Food Waste Challenge

The application is part of a larger effort between USDA and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency called the U.S. Food Waste Challenge. Launched in 2013, the Food Waste Challenge appeals to participants across the food chain – farms, agricultural processors, food manufacturers, grocery stores, restaurants, universities, schools, and local governments – to join efforts to:

  • Reduce food waste by improving product development, storage, shopping/ordering, marketing, labeling, and cooking methods;
  • Recover food waste by connecting potential food donors to hunger relief organizations like food banks and pantries; and,
  • Recycle food waste to feed animals or to create compost, bioenergy, and natural fertilizers.

By joining the Challenge, organizations and businesses demonstrate their commitment to reducing food waste, helping to feed the hungry in their communities, and reducing the environmental impact of wasted food.

App Specifics

The FoodKeeper was originally a publication containing valuable advice to help consumers understand the shelf life of products when stored in the pantry, refrigerator or freezer. In 2015, partners turned the publication’s guidelines into this application.

The app is available for Android and Apple devices. Storage times listed are intended as useful guidelines and are not hard-and-fast rules. Some foods may deteriorate more quickly while others may last longer than the times suggested.

Category/Topic: Health and Safety

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Comments

Lucille Dwyer
Apr 06, 2015

HI Karen, I saw this chart in REAL SIMPLE magazine March issue and would love the physical chart or app. Thanks

C B Knox
Apr 11, 2015

Typical government agency publication - long on claims and short on information - like how to download the application.

Cerise
Apr 22, 2015

What about a download for computers? I don't see one.

GEAH
Apr 22, 2015

Is the USDA saying we should ignore expiration dates on products and go with an app instead?

Cheryl
Apr 22, 2015

Not everyone has a smart phone. How can I download the information to my PC?

Jess B
Apr 23, 2015

Where is the WP version?

C.McPheeters
Apr 23, 2015

And what of the people with no smartphone, no tablet or other relevant device? No "old school" version say in PDF form?

bchampagne
Apr 24, 2015

USDA FoodKeeper need a ver. for windows phones would really help out

Ben Weaver
Apr 24, 2015

@bchampagne – thank you for the suggestion, we are currently working on improvements to the application, and intend to include a Windows Phone version with a future release.

Jean
Apr 24, 2015

What's with it has to be Android 4.4 and up? 4.1.2 is not that old. Guess I won't be using this app. Thanks for nothing.

Mark
Apr 25, 2015

It would also be nice to have a link to the information to click on and bring up on my computer, for those of us without smartphones.

Dale Wilkins
Apr 29, 2015

How can I view this FoodKeeper publication on a Desktop computer?

Kate
May 02, 2015

Do I have to type in my food purchases or can I use my phone to scan in barcode?

Just Observing
May 06, 2015

The app is great, but it needs to be more specific on each product whether we are talking about opened product, unopened product, cooked product, uncooked product, etc. The app selectively does this with some products but not all. For example, for cereal it provides shelflife of unopened boxes and opened boxes -- perfect. But, for example, with BBQ sauce, it says 12 months in the pantry and 4 months in the fridge -- is this opened or unopened? The app is useless if we don't know this info.

Robert
May 14, 2015

To paraphrase what's on the app "xxx should be consumed within 12 months" Is the 12 months AFTER the expiration date?

Ben Weaver
May 14, 2015

@Robert - thank you for your comment. The guidance offered in the application is after the date of purchase, unless otherwise noted. We are working to make this more clear in an update coming later this summer.

Peggy Enquist
Jun 08, 2015

Where's the BlackBerry version?

Ben Weaver
Jun 08, 2015

@Peggy Enquist - thank you for your question. We do not have plans to release a BlackBerry version, but the system will soon be available on FoodSafety.gov for non- Android or iOS users.

sri
Jun 15, 2015

This is great! Is there a place we can get the database that this app is talking to? We have a food app, and it would be great to incorporate this data into it. Is there any place we can get a list of food:best_before_date database? Thanks.

Ben Weaver
Jun 18, 2015

@Just Observing - This summer we will be finishing an update to the application that addresses exactly this. We will provide more clear guidance on what storage timelines mean across all items, covering storage after purchase, after opening, after preparation, etc.

Ben Weaver
Jun 18, 2015

@Kate - good question. Currently you must type or select the items manually, the application does not support scanning barcodes.

Ben Weaver
Jun 18, 2015

@Mark - The application will also be available on <a href="http://www.foodsafety.gov/&quot; rel="nofollow">FoodSafety.gov</a> in the near future for those that do not wish to use it on smartphones or tablets.

Donna
Jul 25, 2015

Any update about when the application will be available on FoodSafety.gov ?

Bob Pokorny
Jan 28, 2016

How do I download the App.

Ben Weaver
Jan 28, 2016

@Bob Pokorny - good question. The app can be downloaded on the Google Play store for Android devices here: <a href="https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=gov.usda.fsis.foodkeeper&…; rel="nofollow">https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=gov.usda.fsis.foodkeeper&…; and on the iTunes store for Apple/iOS devices here: <a href="https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/usda-foodkeeper/id978186100?mt=8&quot; rel="nofollow">https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/usda-foodkeeper/id978186100?mt=8</a&gt;

Jenifer
Feb 03, 2016

Great resource! Thank you for making this available. and thanks to "Thrillist" for making me aware that it exists.

David
Feb 03, 2016

Whom can I contact with a media inquiry about FoodKeeper?

Ben Weaver
Feb 03, 2016

@David - good question. FSIS’s Office of Public Affairs and Consumer Education can be reached at 202-720-9113.

riyas
Feb 27, 2016

Good How to Download your app

Sandra
Mar 22, 2016

We need that app on fire.

Lars
Sep 23, 2016

As a now single guy, it's always been a challenge to cook for one. Most grocery stores just don't cater to singles but rather a family of four. The best I've managed is for a store to cut a head of lettuce in half :-) Ergo your app has really helped me stay on top of when I need to cook up what's in my fridge, especially vegetables before they need to be thrown in the garbage.

I also use some great apps and plug-ins to help with the meal planning and shopping.

So, here's my question. Is there a public API or other means to integrate your database with other applications?

Aleksandar
Dec 03, 2016

Hi,
I've a similar tool, maybe just more general, as you can keep track of all the stuff and not just food, but it lacks few things that your app has. Anyway, I'd like to work as a part of team with your software developers or as a standalone developer and contribute to your app. Is there an opening job for that? my app is Expiry Wiz

Laura
Jan 03, 2017

Can you provide a formal letter from the USDA or other regulatory authority that states that food is safe past the expiration? I interface with other agencies that are accountable to other authorities (ie OCFS) that question product safety. I would like to provide more formal communication than just the FoodKeeper or app.

Ben Weaver
Jan 04, 2017

@Laura - thanks for your comment. Someone from the Food Safety team will be in touch with you shortly.

jj
Mar 31, 2017

can we have health that is good for us

Charlotte King
Apr 23, 2017

I am not putting any more apps on my phone at this time, its just not handling them well. Hopefully a new phone later this year but till then, can I get the same lists for left overs and how long to keep items on line? Thank you for this tool, its great.

Ben Weaver
Apr 24, 2017

@Charlotte King - Hi Charlotte! Luckily we do have an online version of the app. It works the exact same and has the same food information as the mobile app. You can access the online FoodKeeper here: https://www.foodsafety.gov/keep/foodkeeperapp/. We hope this helps!

Elisa
May 05, 2017

I loved using FoodKeeper when I was managing two households. My dearest friend (age 96) REALLY NEEDED SAFE FOOD 🥘 and the USDA app was a lifesaver. Quick, efficient and links to my iOS device calendar made it very easy.

Dan
Oct 11, 2017

iPhone users go to the app store and search for USDA FoodKeeper. That's how I found it and if I were using my android, I would the the same for the app store there.

Jim Collins
Mar 22, 2018

Thank you.