Food Safety Information

Food safety is important for everyone to stay healthy and thrive. Various food safety and quality assurance resources and topics are shared here – check back regularly for new resources!

The Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act establishes Federal protection from civil and criminal liability for persons involved in the donation and distribution of food and grocery products in our community when certain criteria are met.

Read the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act and FAQs.

Tracking and providing notifications about product recalls is an important part of providing safe food to our partner pantries and their pantry guests.

What is a recall?

Recalls are actions taken by a firm to remove a product from the market. Recalls may be conducted on a firm’s own initiative, by FDA or USDA request, or by FDA or USDA order under statutory authority and compliance policies. Recalls are categorized into multiple categories:

Class I A situation in which there is a reasonable probability that the use of or exposure to a violative product will cause serious adverse health consequences or death.
Class II A situation in which use of or exposure to a violative product may cause temporary or medically reversible adverse health consequences or where the probability of serious adverse health consequences is remote.
Class III A situation in which use of or exposure to a violative product is not likely to cause adverse health consequences.
Occurs when a product has a minor violation that would not be subject to FDA legal action. The firm removes the product from the market or corrects the violation. For example, a product removed from the market due to tampering, without evidence of manufacturing or distribution problems, would be a market withdrawal.

Monitoring and Alerting to Recalls

Partner pantries may receive food from multiple sources outside Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin, so being aware of recalls helps to alert and protect pantry guests. The feeds from the FDA, USDA, and Food Safety News below not only help partner pantries inform pantry guests, but also provide up-to-date health alerts and recall details to Second Harvest donors, volunteers, staff and the general public.

The Quality Assurance team at Second Harvest monitors recalls daily and sends email updates to partner pantries about recalls that affect our distribution area. Second Harvest partner agencies are automatically signed up to receive recall emails during their onboarding process. If you would like to be added to the email list, please email Pilar at with first and last name, name of your organization and email address.

If a recalled item was in Second Harvest’s inventory and distributed to partner pantries, your Agency Representative will contact you directly via email and/or phone to confirm information with you and provide instructions on handling the recall.

Recalled items will also be removed and blocked from Second Harvest inventory.

Did you know that expiration, sell by, best if used by, best if used before and use-by dates are not food safety dates? These dates will tell you when a product is at peak quality, but nearly all foods (excluding infant formula) should still be safe and wholesome to eat if stored and handled properly until the time spoilage is evident.

Second Harvest calculates and uses food date extensions to maximize the distribution of nutritious, quality and great-tasting food.

Dates on packages are not always the best method for determining the quality of food. Taste, touch, smell and sight are valuable measures of food quality.

What do different food dates mean?

Expiration Date Food doesn’t “technically” expire, but may lose quality, become overripe, start to stale, or mold and spoil over time. One food that should never be consumed after its expiration date is infant formula.

Some products with active ingredients (e.g. toothpaste, sunscreen, etc.) should not be used after the expiration date, because the products may not work as intended after the date.

Best if Used By/Best Before Date Indication from the manufacturer of when a product will be of the best flavor or quality. It is not a food safety date.
Sell By Date The date the manufacturer tells a store how long to display the product for sale. It is not a food safety date.
Use By Date/Consume By Date
The last date the manufacturer recommends for the use of the product while at peak quality. It is not a food safety date.
Freeze By Date Indication by the manufacturer by when a product should be frozen to maintain peak quality. Once thawed the food should be stored properly and/or consumed promptly. It is not a food safety date.
Closed or Coded Dates Codes used for the date the product was packaged, item identification, inventory management and/or product location in the event of a recall.

How do I find out the food date extension?

Second Harvest of Southwestern Wisconsin has put together some broad and basic food extension guidelines for common food categories and items.

Food Categories and Food Date Extensions

Additional resources for determining the quality and length of time to store and consume  packaged and prepared (purchased and home-cooked) foods are also available:

USDA Recalls Feed

Loading RSS Feed Recalls Feed

U.S. FDA Recalls Feed