Preventing Food Poisoning by Cleaning the Refrigerator: Preventing Food Borne Pathogens like Campylobacter, Salmonella, and E. coli

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"Foodborne pathogens like Campylobacter, Salmonella, and E. coli grow fastest in the danger zone' © PixelRockstar.com

Time to Clean out the Fridge

After a hectic few weeks, it’s shocking opening the refrigerator door and discovering all the mysterious molds and funky odors. Although the danger zone is 40 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit, microbial growth still occurs in the fridge, slowly but surely.

Foodborne pathogens like Campylobacter, Salmonella, and E. coli grow fastest in the danger zone—think of foodborne illnesses causing bacterial growth on foods like summertime picnic potato salads or that tuna salad sandwich that sat out in your car for a few hours. These foodborne pathogens also can proliferate in cooler temperatures, just at a slower rate.

Take five minutes today to go through your fridge and clear out expired, funky, or moldy foods. Here are some items to be sure to check:

  • Deli and vacuum-packed foods last only 3 to 5 days after opening.
  • Opened packages of hot dogs last a week.
  • A big culprit in my fridge is sour cream and pasta sauce. Often times crammed to the back of the fridge, these containers often can be tossed out because of mold.
  • Raw sausage lasts only a couple days after opening.
  • Raw chicken/poultry and fish should only be in your fridge for a couple of days, but you can keep frozen chicken for up to 9 months. Frozen fish, depending on the fattiness, can be frozen from anywhere from 2 to 8 months.
  • Leftovers like cooked meat can be refrigerated for 3 to 4 days, but make sure to thoroughly reheat your leftovers because bacteria can still grow on cooked food!
  • All other expiration dates

By clearing out your fridge, you increase the cold air’s ability to circulate throughout your refrigerator and keep the control the rate of microbial growth.

Also, reduce the risk of cross-contamination by making sure raw meats and produce are stored separately. Keep raw meats in the lowest part of your fridge to prevent raw meat juices from contaminating other foods in your fridge.

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