9 Ways to Prolong the Shelf Life of Fresh Local Produce
Whether it’s a plate of steamed fish, the eggs in our omelette, or a bowl of fresh salad, our food has to travel through the supply chain before it reaches our tables. Local produce are fresher as they travel a far shorter distance than imported produce, but we should still make every effort to ensure that our local produce stay fresh for as long as possible, as freshness ensures maximum nutrition and achieving a longer shelf life can reduce food waste through spoilage.
With our hot and humid weather, food can go bad very quickly. So, it’s important to know how to choose fresh produce when grocery shopping, how to keep them fresh on our way home, and how to store them properly at home to ensure freshness and longer shelf life.
Singapore’s Food Safety Standards
Singapore has excellent standards for cold chain management and food safety. This is reflected in the fact that we have one of the lowest incidences of food-borne disease outbreaks compared to the rest of the world, even though we import the majority of our food.
The standard SS 668: 2020 Cold Chain Management of Chilled and Frozen Foods sets out requirements for managing chilled and frozen foods, including pre-packaged fish, eggs and vegetables. They’re designed to ensure the safety, freshness and quality of chilled and frozen foods, by setting out requirements on proper temperature-controlled environments throughout the supply chain as our food travels to us.
Tips on Choosing, Transporting and Storing Fresh Produce
While the government and the food industry play their respective roles in ensuring food safety and freshness, consumers also have a part to play as food safety is a joint responsibility. This is especially when food is processed and prepared at home. So, check out the following tips on choosing, transporting and storing fresh produce to avoid food safety risks and ensure that our fresh produce stay fresh longer.
Food safety for consumers starts at the shopping stage. Observe good food safety practices and follow these tips when choosing fresh fish, eggs, and vegetables:
- Choose clean eggs without cracks as bacteria can enter the eggs through cracks. Never buy expired eggs.
- Avoid vegetables that are bruised or shrivelled. Don’t buy vegetables with signs of mould or spoilage. Look for crispy, fresh leaves and tender, fleshy stems in leafy greens. Buy only what you can eat within a few days as vegetables are highly perishable.
- Avoid buying fish that are displayed at room temperature. Fish should be properly refrigerated or iced at the store. Make sure it has firm flesh and a shiny appearance with bright, clear, and full eyes. Gills should be red to liver-red and free of slime. Don’t buy fish with red, cloudy eyes, or an ammonia-like smell as these are signs that it has lost its freshness.
- Pick up refrigerated and chilled items last, before heading over to the cashier.
With our hot tropical climate, after shopping for fresh produce, it’s vital to keep our food fresh as we head home. Here’s how to keep our local produce fresh from the shop to our homes:
- After leaving the shop, store refrigerated and chilled items in cooler bags. Head for home right away so that we can put these in the fridge or freezer as soon as possible. If the journey takes more than 30 minutes, use a cooler box with ice to store refrigerated and chilled items on the way home.
- Also, use cooler bags for fresh vegetables and eggs to maintain a cool temperature on the way home. Keep them away from direct sunlight and hot environments (eg. car boot) to prevent spoilage.
Storage at Home
When at home, store fresh produce properly to prolong shelf life and reduce food waste through spoilage. When stored at the right temperature in the refrigerator (4 degrees Celcius), vegetables can keep for up to 7 days, while eggs can stay fresh for 3 to 5 weeks. Raw fish can stay fresh for 1 to 2 days in the fridge, and freezing fish at minus 18 degrees Celcius can extend its shelf life to 2 to 4 months. Here’s how to store fresh local produce properly at home for longer shelf life:
- Remove any soil from your vegetables and pack them in plastic bags or containers before putting them away in the vegetable compartment of the refrigerator. This layer of protection keeps the moisture in and minimises dehydration. Don’t store ripe fruit with vegetables as ripe fruit emits ethylene gas, which turns leafy greens yellow.
- Wash and dry fresh seafood before refrigeration. Keep raw fish on the bottom shelf of the fridge and always keep it tightly wrapped in a plastic bag or on a tray. This minimises the chances of juices dripping onto and contaminating other food items. Avoid refreezing fish once it’s completely thawed.
- Keep eggs in their original carton or packaging at the back of the fridge. This minimises their exposure to temperature fluctuations when the fridge door opens.
Keep Local Produce Fresh for Longer
While there are stringent food safety standards in Singapore, there are also a lot of things we as consumers can do to keep local produce fresh and nutritious longer, for example, by selecting our produce carefully, and keeping them at safe temperatures on the way home and at home. By choosing the freshest local produce, transporting them home in cooler bags, and storing them in the fridge as soon as possible, we can keep our families safe and healthy by reducing the risk of food poisoning and ensuring our local produce stay fresh and nutritious as long as possible.
For those who don’t have time to go to the supermarket, e-SG Farmers’ Market on RedMart is an excellent option. SAFEF’s e-commerce partner keeps local produce fresh with its unbroken cold chain which ensures that the produce is received, stored and delivered at the right temperature for maximum freshness.
So, to buy fresh local produce online, simply shop at SAFEF’s e-SG Farmers’ Market on RedMart: bit.ly/e-sgfm.
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