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Help - Food Safety
Better understand food safety and handling procedures, expiration dates and nutritional definitions. Visit our Food Safety page for invaluable information.

Why is ground beef sometimes brown on the inside?
What are pantry pests and how do they get in products?
I left a perishable product out of refrigeration all night, is it safe to eat?
How long can eggs be stored?
How long can I leave food out, unrefrigerated?
What is the temperature "Danger Zone", and why is it important?
How do I know if a product is spoiled; what are the signs of spoilage?
How long can I keep leftovers?
What should I use to clean my kitchen countertops?
Why don't all food products have an expiration date?
What is the difference between "sell by" date, "pull" date, "use by" date, "best if used by" date, and "expiration" date?
What should I do in case of a power outage, or refrigerator/freezer failure?
How should I thaw frozen products?
How long can I keep food products in my pantry, freezer, and refrigerator?
Do your products contain ingredients that I’m allergic to?
How long are canned goods safe on my shelf?
What are the temperature guidelines for poultry?
What causes seafood to glow?
What are nematodes?
What is the shiny glass like substance sometimes seen in canned tuna fish or canned refrigerated dough?
What organic foods does Harris Teeter carry?
What does “Country of Origin” mean?
Does Harris Teeter sell meat using carbon monoxide gas?
What is monosodium glutamate (MSG)?
What is sodium erythorbate?
What is trans fat?
What is fat free?
What is lactose?
What are sugar alcohols?
What is Agricultural Biotechnology/Genetically Modified Organism (GMO)?
What is Harris Teeter’s position on GMOs?

Why is ground beef sometimes brown on the inside?
The red color that most people associate with fresh meat is simply meat that has been exposed to oxygen. Pigments found in animal muscle combine with oxygen to give this red color. It is normal to find this red color on the outer portion of ground beef, since this is the part of the meat that is in most contact with the oxygen in the air. In addition, it is normal to find that the inner portions are darker in color (brownish or purplish) due to their lack of contact with air.
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What are pantry pests and how do they get in products?
Given the right conditions such as warm humid weather and prolonged storage of a product, these pests can develop in food processing plants, warehouses, stores and homes. It is often difficult to determine how or when products became infested. These organisms are not harmful, but can destroy grains, cereals, nuts and dried fruit given the opportunity. To prevent pantry pests, keep your pantry shelves clean, and inspect all food packages for damage. You also can transfer foods to sealed containers.
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I left a perishable product out of refrigeration all night, is it safe to eat?
Obey the 2-hour rule. Don't leave perishable foods out of the refrigerator for more than two hours. Keep hot foods hot (140 degrees or above) and cold foods cold (40 degrees or below).
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How long can eggs be stored?
Raw eggs can be kept about 4 weeks past the date on the carton. Hard-cooked eggs should be stored in the refrigerator and used within a week. Neither raw nor cooked eggs should be out of refrigeration for more than two hours.
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How long can I leave food out, unrefrigerated?
No more than two (2) hours. Then, it must be divided into smaller portions, or transferred to a shallow container, and cooled quickly to 41° or below.

REFERENCE: "Preventing Foodborne Illness: A Guide to Safe Food Handling," published by the "Serving Safe Food: A Practical Approach to Food Safety", published by the Educational Foundation of the National Restaurant Association.
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What is the temperature "Danger Zone", and why is it important?
The "Danger Zone" is the temperature range of 41-140°. This is the temperature range where harmful microorganisms (such as bacteria) grow most rapidly. If foods are left in the "Danger Zone" too long, microorganisms can multiply to dangerous levels.

REFERENCE: "ServSafe® Essentials", 2nd Edition, published by the Educational Foundation of the National Restaurant Association.
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How do I know if a product is spoiled; what are the signs of spoilage?
Trust your senses. Use your eyes, nose and fingertips to determine if foods are fresh. Signs of spoilage include abnormal odor, discoloration, or slimy texture. Canned goods should not have rust, swollen ends, or severe denting. Dry foods should be discarded if you detect insects or insect damage, or damaged packaging. Follow "use by" or expiration dates on packages when they are provided. When in doubt..........throw it out!!!!

REFERENCE: "Food Safety Tips for the Grocery Shopper," published by South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.
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How long can I keep leftovers?
Leftovers should be stored in the refrigerator, and kept no longer than two (2) days. Leftovers should be reheated only once, and then should be discarded. Leftovers must be reheated to an internal temperature of at least 165°.

REFERENCE: "Serving Safe Food: A Practical Approach to Food Safety," published by the Educational Foundation of the National Restaurant Association.
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What should I use to clean my kitchen countertops?
To clean your kitchen countertops, use a mild detergent solution, rinse with clean warm water, and sanitize with a solution made with 1 teaspoon bleach in 1 quart of water.

REFERENCE: www.fsis.usda.gov (website of United States Department of Agriculture - Food Safety Inspection Service).
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Why don't all food products have an expiration date?
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires open code dating (i.e. "use by" date, expiration date, etc.) on only a few products. These include infant formula, milk, and non-prescription medicines. Open code dating on other products is provided voluntarily by the manufacturer.

REFERENCE: United States Code of Federal Regulations, Title 21, Part 101).
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What is the difference between "sell by" date, "pull" date, "use by" date, "best if used by" date, and "expiration" date?
The "sell by" or "pull" date is the last date the product should be sold. "Use by" or "best if used by" date indicates the approximate last date a product will be of best quality. The "expiration " date gives the last date an item should be sold; and also the last date an item should be used before it is likely to lose flavor and quality.

REFERENCE: "Food Safety Tips for the Grocery Shopper," published by South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.
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What should I do in case of a power outage, or refrigerator/freezer failure?
If the appliance will be working again within a few hours, leave the products inside, and keep the door closed. A closed freezer will usually keep food frozen for about 1 day; a closed refrigerator will keep food cold 4-6 hours. If the appliance will be out for a longer period, transfer items from the refrigerator to the freezer, and keep the door closed. Block ice or dry ice may also be placed in the appliance to maintain cold temperatures. Please note: Never touch dry ice with bare hands or breathe its vapors.

REFERENCE: "Preventing Foodborne Illness: A Guide to Safe Food Handling," published by the United States Department of Agriculture - Food Safety Inspection Service.
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How should I thaw frozen products?
Do not thaw meat or poultry on the counter. Bacteria can multiply rapidly at room temperature. The safest way to thaw meat and poultry is to defrost it in the refrigerator. Place the package in the refrigerator immediately after removing it from the freezer. For faster thawing, place the package under cold running water. The microwave oven can also be used for quick, safe defrosting.

REFERENCE: "Preventing Foodborne Illness: A Guide to Safe Food Handling," published by the United States Department of Agriculture - Food Safety Inspection Service.
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How long can I keep food products in my pantry, freezer, and refrigerator?
Go by the date on the package. Do not use items beyond the date provided on the package. Canned foods should be used within 1 year from the date of purchase. Under proper storage conditions, dry goods (cake mix, pasta, cereal, cookies, flour, etc.) will last up to 6 months from the date of purchase. Fresh fruit and vegetables should be used within 1 week from purchase. Fresh salads (pasta, potato, cole slaw, etc.) should be used within 5 days from purchase. Fresh poultry: 1-2 days. Ground beef: 1-2 days. Other fresh meat: 2-4 days. Hot dogs and lunch meat: 2 weeks if unopened; 5 days if opened. Eggs: 3 weeks. Frozen foods should be used within 3-12 months, depending on the product.

REFERENCE: "Preventing Foodborne Illness: A Guide to Safe Food Handling," published by the United States Department of Agriculture - Food Safety Inspection Service
REFERENCE: "The Food Keeper", published by Food Marketing Institute.

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Do your products contain ingredients that I’m allergic to?
Our products may contain an allergen. However, if a common allergen is in the food, it will be listed on the ingredient statement. Our suppliers do purchase certain ingredients such as flavors and spices from other suppliers, and they are required to comply with the same standards pertaining to labeling of allergens. We periodically audit our suppliers to ensure that their labels are current and in full compliance with all FDA and USDA guidelines.
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How long are canned goods safe on my shelf?
These days, most domestically canned food has a Best By date stamped on the can. The canning process sterilizes the food, so if the seal is unbroken the product remains sterile. Cans stored in a cool dry place will stay safe indefinitely. For best quality, however, use high acid foods such as tomatoes, sauerkraut or fruits within two years of purchase. For low acid foods such as meats, tuna fish and most vegetables use within five years of purchase. Look for rust, corrosion, severe dents on a seam, or swelling. Be sure the cans are not stored in a garage or somewhere that they might have frozen or gotten over 140 degrees F. If any of these problems occur dispose of the product.
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What are the temperature guidelines for poultry?
The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, has established a new minimum internal cooking temperature for poultry. When poultry is cooked to an internal temperature of 165°F, pathogens such as Salmonella and viruses such as the avian influenza virus are destroyed according to new research. This new temperature is safe for both light and dark meat. Previously, USDA had recommended 170° for light meat and 180° for dark meat.
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What causes seafood to glow?
The "glowing" effect is most likely caused by bioluminescent marine bacteria. Fish and shellfish sometimes demonstrate this phenomenon because the bioluminescent marine bacteria are part of their natural body micro flora. When they are present in sufficient numbers, a glow can be emitted from the seafood. The luminescent compound luciferase is not toxic and presents no danger to people. Preparation and cooking of the fish or shellfish does not necessarily eliminate the bioluminescent factor so it is not unreasonable to observe this phenomenon in ready-to-eat seafood products.
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What are nematodes?
Nematodes are parasitic round worms common in coldwater, oily fish such as salmon or cod. Nematodes are a natural phenomenon and are not harmful as long as the fish is cooked properly.

Salmon has been quick frozen at the processing facility between -20 to -40 degrees F. The length of time the fish is kept frozen and in frozen storage prior to shipping is -4 degrees F or below for a minimum of 7 days, total time, to sufficiently kill the parasites, per FDA's Fish and Fisheries Product Hazards and Control Guidance: Third Edition, Chapter 5: Parasites, page 65. Further storage and transit time to a retail facility may be an additional 30 days or more. Based on the holding/freezing procedures, it is adequate to eliminate any naturally occurring live parasite contamination.
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What is the shiny glass like substance sometimes seen in canned tuna fish or canned refrigerated dough?
Struvites in canned tuna are often mistaken as glass. Struvite is a phenomenon that occurs during the processing of the fish. It is made up of natural mineral components that precipitate out of the fish during the canning process. This is not a harmful situation since the struvite, if swallowed, would dissolve in the stomach. Manufacturers work hard to prevent the formation of struvite.
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What organic foods does Harris Teeter carry?
Harris Teeter carries an increasing number of organic products. All organic foods must be labeled to meet specific federal guidelines. The USDA has put in place a set of national standards that food labeled 'organic" must meet, whether it is grown in the US or imported. Today, when you buy food labeled organic, you can be sure that it was produced using the highest organic production and handling standards in the world. The USDA organic seal tells you that a product is at least 95% organic and this seal is voluntary. Natural and Organic are not interchangeable. Only food labeled organic has been certified as meeting USDA organic standards.
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What does “Country of Origin” mean?
Country of Origin is declared on the package, if it comes from a country other than the United States. Without imports, the United States would not be able to supply the fruit and vegetable needs of the population. Because of the rigorous U.S. food safety system, imports have to meet the same strict standards that U.S.-grown products are subject to. Growers outside the United States understand the importance of meeting U.S. market demands, including food safety demands.
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Does Harris Teeter sell meat using carbon monoxide gas?
We maintain our level of quality by a company-wide commitment to purchase products from suppliers that adhere to all regulatory guidelines. Case-ready modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) using carbon monoxide as one of the gases is permitted for use by the FDA and the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture since February, 2002.
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What is monosodium glutamate (MSG)?
Monosodium glutamate is used as a flavor enhancer, much like salt. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, MSG is a safe food ingredient for the general public and a small percentage of people sensitive to MSG may have mild reactions when they eat food with large amounts of MSG. The FDA requires MSG to be declared on labels of food products to which MSG has been added. Consumers who may have sensitivities are advised to check the ingredients list on each product package.
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What is sodium erythorbate?
Sodium erythorbate is a man-made form of vitamin C. Sodium erythorbate helps keep the color of franks, ham and other cured meats stable. Sodium erythorbate and similar forms of vitamin C have been used in cured meat products for more than 30 years.
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What is trans fat?
Trans fats are “transitional fats” between saturated and unsaturated, and can be present in hydrogenated oils and also, to a much smaller degree, in animal products such as meat and dairy products. A product can be labeled trans-fat free if the total fat in a food is less than 0.5 grams (1/2 gram) per serving.
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What is fat free?
According to the U.S. nutritional labeling guidelines, a product that contains less than half a gram of fat per serving can be labeled “fat free”.
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What is lactose?
Lactose or milk sugar is found in most dairy products such as milk, butter, cheese, yogurt, ice cream, sour cream, etc. Some people are lactose intolerant, meaning they have difficulty digesting lactose. If you are lactose intolerant, the simplest solution is to read ingredient labels and avoid consuming foods with dairy product ingredients.
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What are sugar alcohols?
Sugar alcohols are used as a substitute for sugar. While not really sugar, sugar alcohols do still contribute to carbohydrates. If you have a concern regarding carbohydrate intake, and question whether you should use a product, we recommend you contact your health professional.
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What is Agricultural Biotechnology/Genetically Modified Organism (GMO)?
Harris Teeter follows the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) definition of agriculture biotechnology/genetically modified organizations that is found by clicking here. According to USDA, agricultural biotechnology is a range of tools, including traditional breeding techniques, that alter living organisms, or parts or organisms, to make or modify products; improve plants or animals; or develop microorganisms for specific agricultural uses. Modern biotechnology includes the tools of genetic engineering.
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What is Harris Teeter’s position on GMOs?
Harris Teeter believes the public should have access to unbiased scientific information about biotechnology and genetically modified foods. Harris Teeter also follows all labeling guidelines put forth by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) including but not limited to GMOs and will always comply with federal, state and local regulations in this regard. Again, the Company does believe consumers have the basic right to know the relevant information about the products they purchase but supports the role and responsibility of FDA to determine appropriate food labeling. Harris Teeter will continue to look to both the UDSA and FDA to provide guidance on matters related to the quality of our nation’s food supply that is also dependent on science and will continue to monitor conversations related to genetically engineered foods as well.
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