Posts tagged: food safety

Natural Preservatives

Despite the negative image preservatives have gained over the last decades due to the media concerns over their effects on health, not everything that falls into this category is bad. In truth, preservatives are important for keeping food safe to eat, and not all of them are synthetic. Nature has left us many preservatives, and if you know how to use them you can preserve food for a very long time in harsh conditions.

1. Bain-marie boiling

The Bain-marie is a method of preservation by double boiling food to certain temperatures. It is mostly used for tomato sauce to store it over winter. After you mince the tomatoes you boil them for one hour, then add salt and oil until everything is homogenous.

bain-marie

The second step is to put it into glass recipients (jars or bottles) as glass is the best material to store food because it preserves its consistency, as opposed to plastic and wood, which always retain the smell and flavor of stored materials. The recipients are then put into another larger recipient filled with water and are boiled like that for about half an hour more. Before putting the lids, seal off the bottles with cellophane. The heat pushes the hot air outside, and the oil should reach the mouth of the bottle so that when you seal it off there is no air in it. Stored in the basement, they can last for years. Of course, this method can be used for mostly anything: fruit juice, guacamole, coconut milk, mashed vegetables, you name it.

To make matters simpler, you can just buy a bain-marie equipment.

2. Oxygen deprivation

oxygen

Oxygen is the source and sustainer of life, but also it is unmaking. Everything on the planet deteriorates and dies because of oxygen. Oxygen alters tissues in time (we call it aging), and the same effect happens with food as well. This is why void packed foods don’t go bad, and avoid packing machine is vital for food storage. It’s only 100 dollars and you can make big provisions with it, from dried fruit to meat and dairy products.

3. Salt

salt

Before refrigerators existed, and especially in the Middle Ages, meat was preserved using salt. You may have heard of the term corned beef or salt fish; this means treating the meat with sufficient salt up to the point where mold and bacteria can no longer develop. Salt dehydrates the meat, and bacteria need water to grow. You can try this at home: salt a slice of meat and leave it out of the fridge for several days. You will notice the absence of foul smell and it will still be good to eat. This method can also preserve food for years on end if done properly.

4. Lemon

lemon

Ascorbic acid (vitamin C) is one of the most powerful antioxidants, and it also draws water from other surfaces. Though not as powerful to last for years, lemon juice can preserve food out of the fridge for several days. You can test it most easily with avocado, one of the fastest oxidizing fruits: after squeezing a lemon over it, it won’t blacken within the hour.

5. Vinegar

vinegar

Acetic acid is a good natural preservative that is used for many non-artificially preserved products, such as mustard and other sauces, but only use wine vinegar. Other types of vinegar contain artificial acetic acid. This is one of the best preservatives, provided you can stand the smell and flavor.

6. Horseradish, Ginger, and Wasabi

horseradish

Horseradish, along with its Asian relatives, ginger, and wasabi, contains the same active ingredient (Allyl isothiocyanate), which is a great preservative against alteration and bacteria. You need 2 ounces of any of them (minced) in a quart of water to have a natural preservative for your food.

7. Hot Peppers

hot peppers

Red Peppers, Jalapeno, or any other species of hot peppers all share a common compound, which makes them hot: capsaicin. Given its heat for the human tongue, it’s not hard to imagine what it does for bacteria. It’s no coincidence that all the cultures who live in tropical and equatorial climates all share an abundance of capsaicin in their cuisine: it’s not merely a traditional whim, but it comes from old methods of preserving food in warm and dirty environment.

8. Honey

honey

Honey products and propolis has many antiseptic uses since ancient times, and not only by humans. If bees – some of the cleanest organisms on the planet – use it against fungi and bacteria, so should you. These substances are extremely stable against bacteria because of the low water percentage, low PH, and hundreds of anti-bacterial natural compounds secreted by bees.

9. Drying

drying

When it comes to dried food, the same principle applies as with salted meat. You can find dried fruit, meat and vegetables at the supermarket, but you can also make your own. Use your oven to dry tomatoes, fruits, and sausages, then store them in the pantry vacuum sealed.

Final Thoughts

As for other natural preservatives you could include in your bug-out bag, you should take into consideration grapefruit juice (also a great antiseptic and antibiotic), rosemary extract, sugar, Neem oil, garlic, oregano, cinnamon, mint, eucalyptus, and rose oil.

Last but not least, do not forget the oldest method of preservation and probably the best there is: freezing. If you find yourself in the wild during a Wyoming winter, food preservation will be the last of your problems.

Use It Or Lose It: Your Guide To Effective Food Storage Strategies And Techniques

Use It or Lose It - Your Guide to Effective Food Storage Strategies and Techniques

Like medicines and fuel, the food you have in your stockpile comes with a finite shelf life, which means that you need to implement a safe, easy, and effective system for maintaining your food storage in an economical way. After all, nobody wants to get sick–especially in the context of an SHTF scenario. But groceries are expensive, so tossing your stockpile and starting over every few months isn’t exactly practical, either. Luckily, there are some easy ways to keep your budget, your storage levels, and your body all happy.

Be Shelf Life Savvy

One of the most vital aspects of an effective food storage system is a basic understanding of the various shelf lives and expiration dates of common foods. For example, things like honey, salt, rice, and vinegar all have a shelf life that can be measured in decades instead of years, whereas fresh fruits and vegetables will last a couple of months in the freezer. Print out a simple cheat sheet to common shelf lives, and keep it in the fridge or pantry door to help keep yourself organized.

When Good Food Goes Bad

Shelf life is affected by oxygen, fat, moisture, heat, and time.bulk food storage The more fat a food contains and the longer it is exposed to oxygen, moisture and heat, the faster it will spoil. In fact, the shelf life of some long-lasting products, like powdered milk, will vary depending on the amount of fat they contain. Once food starts to go bad, it loses nutritional value, changes flavor, odor, and becomes rancid. Food can also lose shelf life if it’s stored in an exceedingly cold temperature and you’re left with what is commonly referred to as freezer burn.

Determining Shelf Life

Understanding how long aliments last after they have been opened can be confusing, so let’s examine what one needs to know when trying to figure out a product’s shelf life.

Keep in mind that almost every food has unopened and opened freshness. Unopened products usually last longer, though this does not apply to meat, which lasts longer when cooked.

Most foods have a “best before” date that usually refers to its unopened state. Such information clearly indicates when a food will start to lose its quality. If a food states an unspecific unopened expiration date and an opened expiration date, the product in question should never exceed the unopened date.

In other words, if the information on a jar of mayo states that it can last six months before being unopened and one month after being opened, one should never wait six months before opening the product thinking there’s some sort of bonus added after the food in question has been opened.

Meats & Alternatives

Item Refrigerated Frozen
Eggs 4 to 5 weeks
Fish 1 to 2 days 4 to 6 months
Ground Meat 1 to 2 days 3 to 4 months
Poultry 1 to 2 days 12 months
Steak 3 to 5 days 6 to 8 months

Dairy Products

Item Refrigerated
Cheddar 3 to 6 months
Cottage 2 weeks
Grated Parmesan 12 months
Swiss 3 to 6 months
Processed American 8 months

Breads & Cereals

Item Shelf Life
Crackers 3 months
Plain Bread 15 days
Oatmeal 12 months
Instant Cereal 2 to 3 months
Pasta 24 months
White Rice 24 months
Brown Rice 6 months

Fruits & Vegetables

Item Shelf Life
Bananas 3 to 6 days
Apples 6 months
Onions 2 weeks
Potatoes 4 weeks

Condiments & Dressings

Item Refrigerated
Yellow Mustard 6 to 8 months
Ketchup 24 months
Mayonnaise 3 to 4 months
Jams & Jellies 18 months
Salad Dressings 3 months

FIFO and GIGO

There are two essential acronyms when it comes to food storage. FIFO–First In, First Out–refers to the fact that the first items you purchase should be the first to be consumed. Many people make the mistake of keeping their preparedness food completely separate from their regular groceries. Incorporate your stockpile into your menu planning, especially as things get closer to their expiration date. Instead of, for example, buying coffee for your kitchen, replace the coffee from your stockpile and then use the cans you have in storage for your everyday needs. This is where an effective and clear labeling system comes in. Date things clearly, and pencil in a projected expiration date on your bulk, canned, and dry goods. You can even find several quality smartphone and computer apps that will help you catalog and inventory what you have and when it needs to be replaced.

The other important acronym (GIGO) stands for Garbage In, Garbage Out. In other words, stocking up on expired or nearly expired foods, sub-standard fare, or products with questionable nutritional value simply because they’re on sale is not only a bad idea but can be downright dangerous to your health and detrimental to your survival plan.

Rotation, Rotation, Rotation

Hands down, the single most important factor for keeping a well-stocked and healthy food stockpile is implementing an effective rotation plan. In addition to keeping accurate inventories and knowing your upcoming expiration dates, put the FIFO method into effect by having a uniform storage system. Lazy Susans, revolving storage shelves, or even large plastic bins on rolling pallets can all help you move things forward on a regular basis. Remember that invisible food is food that will go bad before you get a chance to use it, so keep everything well-organized and carefully cataloged.

It’s also important that you get your family to help you commit to the restocking and rotation process. That may mean implementing a system on grocery, harvest, or canning days that allows everyone to work together to rotate older inventory and restock storage shelves.

Optimize Food Longevity

There are also simple steps you can take to ensure your food items last as long as ideally possible:

• Keep food away from sunlight

• Store things in dry, cool places (very important)

• Remember that salted products, like butter, last longer (salt is a preservative, together with vinegar, lime, soya sauce)

• Brown rice spoils faster than white rice (!)

• Eggs should not be stored on refrigerator doors because doors are always warmer than the inside of the fridge

• Refrigerate bread to increase shelf life

• Bananas should be refrigerated after they have ripened (if placed before, they may not be able to resume the ripening process even if they are returned to room temperature)

• Even though some foods like peanut butter don’t indicate that they should be refrigerated, storing them in the fridge will increase shelf life and maintain flavor

• Meat lasts longer when cooked

• Cereals and rice spoil faster when prepared

• Buy food in smaller quantities

• Tightly wrap food when storing in a freezer to prevent freezer burn

I hope that I’ve given some idea on how to better preserve food. If you have some more tips and tricks for better preservation of some products please share. We are here to learn from each other.

By Alec Deacon

Do You Know What You Are Eating?

The first time I saw this video, about two years ago, I thought: “Oh, this must be yet another NGO exaggerating facts to get some popularity and cash in some fat checks.” After all, the idea of altering food DNA is nothing new. It has been done for thousands of years and it is still a common practice, even in the USA. And I know that for sure because I lived on a farm as a child and my grandpa would graft all sorts of plans, without any danger to health but an insatiable craving for the delicious results.

So I labeled this reaction as a natural resistance to change that people always express when dealing with technological breakthroughs. “Just give it some time and people will embrace it, just like they’ve embraced technological advances in medicine”, I thought.

But I couldn’t have been farther from the truth and I honestly admit I am glad I was wrong. Here’s what a recent study shows about genetically modified food:

Rat Tumors

source: rt.com

Would you look at the size of that thing?! What on earth do they put in that food? Now, I’d heard before that this newly fabricated food (GMO) was not as healthy as Montano and other companies involved try to market… but I never thought it was THAT bad! Just look at those rats, for God’s sake!

And tumours are just the beginning. According to the study, “50% of male and 70% of female rats died prematurely, compared with only 30 percent and 20 percent in the control group”, after suffering not only from tumours, but also kidney and liver damage. (rt.com)

Objections to the study were very prompt. “Some researchers” stated this species of rats are prone to developing cancer and that’s why they were chosen for this particular test. Alright, alright, let’s suppose that’s true. Let’s say those rats have a tendency to develop cancer. But that doesn’t alter the numbers: the mortality rate is 70% for the rats fed with genetically engineered food and only 30% for those kept on a standard diet.

After these results were published, the French government immediately sent it to the EU food safety agency and asked them to “take all necessary measures to protect human and animal health, measures that could go as far as an emergency suspension of imports of NK603 maize in the European Union“, as Reuters reports.

And EU’s response wasn’t long awaited:“This study finally shows we are right and that it is urgent to quickly review all GMO evaluation processes,” says Jose Bove, vice-chairman of the European Parliament’s commission for agriculture, according to rt.com.

But if GMO food is not very popular among Europeans, it is widely used in the US. Even by you! You just don’t know it yet. And that’s because a genetically modified food is not labeled as such.

genetically modified foodsource: rt.com

Monsanto, Dupont, Dow, Nestle, Pepsi, Hershey, Coca-Cola, Sara Lee, Rich Products, Dole and Del Monte have raised $25 million (!!!)to keep specifications of modified food off labels. On the other side, California activists are trying to pass Proposition 37. This law would force GMO food producers to specify the nature of their product on the label. But how can you win this war when your opponents are the biggest food corporations in the US… and the congress?

That’s right, Monsanto has already won a battle when Washington lawmakers allowed farmers to plant genetically modified food, even though legal proceedings were pending.

GMO battlesource: rt.com

And let’s not even bring up the so-called tests made to make sure GMO’s are safe for eating. It takes years and years of tests on animals and humans to see what negative effects they may have on the long-term. But Monsanto hurried to state their food is safe not only for health, but also for the environment.

However, the Human Genome Project Information lists a series of possible disturbing effects of GMO’s:

Safety

○ Potential human health impacts, including allergens, transfer of antibiotic resistance markers, unknown effects

○ Potential environmental impacts, including the unintended transfer of transgenes through cross-pollination, unknown effects on other organisms (e.g., soil microbes), and loss of flora and fauna biodiversity

Access and Intellectual Property

○ Domination of world food production by a few companies

○ Increasing dependence on industrialized nations by developing countries

○ Biopiracy, or foreign exploitation of natural resources

Ethics

○ Violation of natural organisms’ intrinsic values

○ Tampering with nature by mixing genes among species

But rising from the middle of this battle comes the following question, cleverly addressed by Global Issues: Do we actually need genetically engineered food,given that agriculture in small biodiverse farms are actually very productive? Economics and politics at all levels, (international, national and local) have often prevented food from reaching hungry people, not a lack of production. These same causes have also created, or contributed to, a lot of poverty, which prevents people from being able to afford food in the first place.”

So, in the end, what we should be concerned about is not labeling genetically modified food as such or banning it from international markets. What every American should be fighting for is our own agriculture, that is now on the edge of destruction, due to political and economical interests of food industry giants.

Just a few decades ago, the USA was called “the Bread Basket of the world”. Today, we’re one step away from becoming “The Poison Basket of the world”. And the cherry on top of the genetically modified cake: citizens just like you and me will be the first poisoned lab rats of the greedy fat cats.