Safety in the Refrigerator: Understanding Refrigeration tips
Keeping your refrigerator clean will minimize the opportunity of harmful microorganisms making you sick.
By refrigerating foods, the goal is not to kill the bacteria, but create an environment where foodborne illnesses causing microorganisms cannot grow quickly. Between the temperatures of 40° F – 140° F is the “danger zone,” for many bacteria like Salmonella Enteritidis and Escherichia coli O157:H7 grow best in this range of temperatures. Keeping food below 40°F helps reduce microbial growth, but your food still can become contaminated.
Here are some storage basics you can do right now to help prevent foodborne illness causing microorganisms from contaminating your food:
- Wipe down the inside of your refrigerator
- Separate raw foods from ready-to-eat foods since raw foods still can carry harmful microorganisms
- Because the door is not as cold as the main compartment of the fridge, move your eggs to the inside of the refrigerator
Some other good housekeeping rules include:
- Not overcrowding your refrigerator. Cold air needs to circulate around your food. Clearing out old leftovers is a great way to free up space.
- Making sure your refrigerator is below 40° F. I keep mine at 37° F.
- Disposing of food that has been sitting out for over two hours. Pathogens like Salmonella and Staphylococcus aureus quickly grow on foods like meat and poultry left out at room temperature.
- Marinating foods in the refrigerator rather than on the counter.
- Preventing pooling from spreading bacteria from one food item to the other.
- Throwing away spoiled food that smells, tastes, or looks “funky”. Be aware not all pathogens noticeably change the characteristics of foods, so if that item was mishandled or expired, you should dispose of the item.
For more tips, visit the FDA’s link for food storage basics here: https://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm093704.htm