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How long can you keep lunch meat?

April 20, 1999

How long can you keep lunch meats in the refrigerator before they should be thrown out?

Prepackaged lunch meats are marked with a "best if used by" date, says Rebecca Davis, family and consumer sciences extension educator for Maryland Cooperative Extension, Frederick County - University of Maryland. But frequently, they don't last that long, she adds.

If you have lunch meat sliced at the deli, it should be OK to eat for five to seven days, according to Davis. The freshness of the meat depends on how long the large loaf - the whole bologna - has been in the deli case, she says.

It may seem obvious to say that lunch meats should be refrigerated, but did you ever think about why that's important?

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Cold temperatures keep harmful bacteria from growing, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service Web site at www.fsis.usda.gov.

Refrigerate lunch meat as soon as you get home from the grocery store, and don't leave it on the counter after you make your sandwich. That's no baloney!

- Kate Coleman | Staff Writer

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