How Long Will That Spinach Last? New Food Safety & Waste App Knows

fresh food in refrigerator

We’re getting into Spring and Summer vegetable season; for most of us, unfortunately, that also means getting into a regular pattern of cleaning spoiled produce out of the fridge. We have good intentions, but our shopping patterns often don’t overlap well with the shelf life of the fresh foods we load up on during those weekly shopping trips.

Of course, fresh produce that’s past its prime is usually easy to spot. Bigger food safety challenges lie with leftovers, or processed foods that need to be refrigerated while open. How long will that leftover spaghetti sauce or baby food last in the fridge before its got to be thrown out?

Food safety issues often overlap with our food waste challenges, so a new app from the USDA’sΒ Food Safety and Inspection Service aims to address both. By showing users how long something will last, and helping them to remember what they’ve got on hand, the FoodKeeper app aims to keep consumers healthy as well as keep food out of trash cans and landfills.

So, how does it do this? First, the app offers a huge database of approximate shelf life times for just about any kind of food you can imagine. Certain foods – “meat, poultry, seafood and egg products” – also have safe cooking tips. Next, if you want to remind yourself that you’ve got, say, fresh spinach on hand, you can set a reminder for yourself based on those shelf life times (which, of course, are approximate). Finally, the app gives you direct access to “Ask Karen,” the USDA’s virtual representative. According to a press release, “The [Ask Karen] system provides information about preventing foodborne illness and safe food handling, storage, and preparation of meat, poultry, and egg products.”

Timed to roll out with World Health Day (today), the FoodKeeper app should help users not only stay well, but also avoid throwing away so much: the calendar reminder system strikes me as particularly useful on that front. In updated versions, I’d love to see this element tied to recipe ideas (because that’s what I need when I’m trying to figure out how to use something up).

FoodKeeper was developed as a part of the US Food Waste Challenge in partnership with Cornell University and the Food Marketing Institute. The app is available for Android and iOS.

I just downloaded it this morning, and have played with it a little bit. If you figure out some unique ways to take advantage of the app’s capabilities, share them with us.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

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