A cornerstone of FSD’s ongoing operations, food safety is equally important for our partner agencies. In 2013, FSD passed the American Institute of Bakers (AIB) audit, a prestigious achievement in the food service industry. Only 27 food banks in the country have attempted and passed this rigorous set of standards. In order to keep our partners in alignment with these standards, we require agencies to attend a mandatory FSD food safety training and certification every two years.

Compliance and Responsibilities

As our valued partners, each agency is expected to maintain all food safety standards. Partner organizations will be monitored at least once every two years (see Agency Compliance for more information). During these on-site visits, FSD checks for food safety compliance as well as a sustained level of respect and dignity shown to clients, volunteers and staff. Please make sure that compliance is up-to-date.

FSD hosts Food Handler for Food Banking courses at various locations throughout San Diego County every other month. If you are interested in hosting or attending, please contact Nico Sidorakis, Partnerships Coordinator, for more information.

Produce Storage and Distribution

Produce has many attractive benefits, such as being highly nutritious and it is a need and expressed desire of those we serve. However, it also presents unique handling requirements that can differ from traditional food bank staple items like canned goods. At FSD, we want to address the need for more education and information about produce best practices by providing the tools we have available to us in the warehouse regarding produce handling for food banks along to you, our partners.

Food banks see a wide range of produce crops and quality, everything from excess product that is retail quality to produce that has gone beyond a salvageable state. It is not always clear whether a produce item is spoiled or just less than grocery store quality.

Click here for a list of one-sheets you can use on-site to help your volunteers and clients know when to keep an item, and when to throw it out. In addition, click here for a much larger and more comprehensive toolkit provided by Feeding America National. Please use these resources to ensure safe distribution and storage of produce, but also a reduction in food waste due to misconceptions about how produce “should” look.

Food Safety Tips

All food items must be stored six inches off the ground, four inches from the wall, and six inches from the ceiling.

Thermometers must be placed in each refrigerator and freezer, and temperature logs must be kept daily for each fridge and freezer.

We require all agencies picking up food from grocery stores or from the FSD warehouse to keep comprehensive temperature logs for transportation. You must take the temperature of refrigerated or frozen food at the time of pick up and upon arriving at your facility. Please click here for a sample log you may use.

Always use separate cutting boards for meats and other foods. If not possible, thoroughly wash and sanitize cutting boards after working with meat.

If you find a pest or bacteria in food, throw out the food and check all surroundings and foods for infestation.

Resources and Information: Hand Washing / Storing Food / Loading and Transport / Can Defects / Produce Storage

FAQ About Code Dating and Expiration

“Open Dating” (use of a calendar date as opposed to a code) on a food product is a date stamped on a product’s package to help the store determine how long to display the product for sale. It can also help the purchaser to know the time limit to purchase or use the product at its best quality. It is not a safety date. After the date passes, while it may not be of best quality, refrigerated products should still be safe if handled properly and kept at 40 °F (4.4 ºC) or below for the recommended storage times listed on the chart (see below). If product has a “use-by” date, follow that date. If product has a “sell-by” date or no date, cook or freeze the product by the time listed. 
  • “Sell-By” date tells the store how long to display the product for sale. You should buy the product before the date expires.
  • “Best if Used By (or Before)” date is recommended for best flavor or quality. It is not a purchase or safety date.
  • “Use-By” date is the last date recommended for the use of the product while at peak quality. The date has been determined by the manufacturer of the product.
  • “Closed or coded dates” are packing numbers for use by the manufacturer.

Except for “use-by” dates, product dates don’t always pertain to home storage and use after purchase. “Use-by” dates usually refer to best quality and are not safety dates. Even if the date expires during home storage, a product should be safe, wholesome and of good quality if handled properly.

Foods can develop an off odor, flavor or appearance due to spoilage bacteria. If a food has developed such characteristics, you should not use it for quality reasons.

If foods are mishandled, however, foodborne bacteria can grow and, if pathogens are present, cause foodborne illness — before or after the date on the package. For example, if hot dogs are taken to a picnic and left out several hours, they will not be safe if used thereafter, even if the date hasn’t expired.

Other examples of potential mishandling are products that have been: defrosted at room temperature more than two hours; cross contaminated; or handled by people who don’t practice good sanitation. Make sure to follow the handling and preparation instructions on the label to ensure top quality and safety.

  • If perishable, take the food home immediately after purchase and refrigerate it promptly. Freeze it if you can’t use it within times recommended on chart.
  • Once a perishable product is frozen, it doesn’t matter if the date expires because foods kept frozen continuously are safe indefinitely.
  • Follow handling recommendations on product.


This information was pulled from the USDA Food Safety online database. For more information, including refrigerator storage times for perishable product, please click here.

FSD has created a client-friendly guide to food storage and safety, which can be downloaded here. Please print and give to clients if they have concerns about the safety of the food they are given.

Manage Expired Items

Expired food items are very common. Fortunately, many products can still be safely consumed past their sell by and expired by dates. Review the chart below for a full list of which food items have an extended shelf life and can be safely consumed.

Shelf-Stable Foods: Shelf Life After Code Date

UHT Milk: 1 year
Broth (beef, chicken, or vegetable): 3 years
Soup: 3 years
Fruits: 3 years
Vegetables: 3 years
Cereal, dry mixes: Expiration date on package
Food in jars, cans: Expiration date on package
Formula: Expiration date on package
Juice: 1 year
Bread: 7 days after expiration date
Beans: 3 years
Fish: salmon, tuna, sardines, mackerel: 3 years
Frosting, canned: 10 months
Meat (beef, chicken, pork, turkey): 2-3 years
Pie filling: 3 years
High-acid foods: 1-2 years

  • fruit (including applesauce, juices)
  • pickles, sauerkraut
  • baked beans w/ mustard/vinegar
  • tomatoes, tomato-based soups & sauces

Low-acid foods: 2-3 years

  • gravy, soups/ broths that aren’t tomato-based
  • pasta, stews, cream sauces
  • vegetables (not tomatoes) Non-acidic foods (2-5 yrs)
  • vegetables, soups
Barbecue sauce (bottled): 1 year
Frosting, canned: 10 months
Gravy (dry mix envelopes): 2 years
Honey: 2 years (remains safe after crystallization — to use, simply immerse closed container in hot [not boiling] water until honey liquefies)
Jams, jellies, preserves: 18 months
Ketchup, cocktail, or chili sauce (jar, bottle, or packet): 18 months
Mayonnaise (jar, bottle, or packet): 3-6 months
Molasses: 2 years
Mustard (jar, bottle, or packet): 2 years
Olives: 18-24 months
Pickles, canned: 1 year
Pickles, jarred: 2 yrs (discard if inside of lid is rusty)
Salad dressings, bottled: 1 year
Salsa, bottled: 12-18 months
Spaghetti sauce, canned: 18 months
Spaghetti sauce, jarred: 18 months
Syrup, chocolate: 2 years
Syrup, corn: 2 years
Syrup, pancake: 2 years
Vinegar: 2 years
Worcestershire sauce: 2 years
Milk: 4-7 days
Yogurt: 7-10 days
Soft Cheeses (cottage, cream, ricotta): 1 week
Hard Cheeses (cheddar, Swiss): 3-4 weeks
Eggs: 3-5 weeks
Baking mix, pancake: 9 months
Baking mixes (brownie, cake, muffin, etc.): 12-18 months
Baking powder: 18 months
Baking soda: Indefinite if kept dry
Beans, dried: 1 year
Bouillon, beef or chicken: 12-24 months
Bouillon, vegetable: 12-24 months
Bread, commercially prepared (including rolls): 3-5 days at room temp or 3 months stored frozen
Cakes, commercially prepared: 2-4 days at room temp or several months frozen
Candy, caramel: 9 months
Candy, chocolate: 18 months
Candy, hard: 36 months
Casserole mix: 9-12 months
Cereal, cold: 1 year
Cereal, hot: 1 year
Cookies: 4 months
Cornmeal: 1 year at room temp or 2+ years frozen
Crackers: 8 months (except graham crackers, 2 months)
Flour, white (all purpose or cake): 1 year
Flour, whole wheat: 6 months (keeps longer if refrigerated or frozen)
Fruit, dried: 6 months
Macaroni and cheese, mix: 9-12 months
Nuts, out of shell: 6-12 months
Nuts, bagged: 12-24 months
Nuts, canned, in shell: 6-12 months
Oatmeal: 12 months
Oil (olive, vegetable, salad): 6 months
Pasta, dry (egg noodles): 2-3 years
Pasta, dry (no egg): 2-3 years
Peanut butter: 18 months
Popcorn, kernels: 2 years
Popcorn, commercially popped and bagged: 2-3 months
Popcorn, microwave packets: 1 year
Potato chips: 2 months
Potatoes, mashed, instant flakes: 1 year
Pretzels: 6-8 months
Pudding, prepared: shelf stable 1 week
Rice, brown: 1 year
Rice, white: 2 years
Rice-based mixes: 6 months
Shortening, vegetable: 8-12 months
Spices, whole: up to 4 years
Spices, ground: up to 2 years (spices lose flavor over time but remain safe to use indefinitely)
Stuffing mix: 9-12 months
Sugar, brown (light or dark): 18 months
Sugar, confectioners: 18 months
Sugar, white: 2+ years
Sugar substitute: 2 years
Toaster pastries, fruit: 6 months
Toaster pastries, no fruit: 9 months
Tortillas, shelf or refrigerator: 3 months
Tortillas, freezer: 6 months