National Food Safety Month: Tips for Safe Refrigeration
If you feel like you can't turn on the television without hearing about another food-related bacteria outbreak, you aren't alone.
Fortunately, there are a number of things that you can do in your home to lessen the likelihood that you or your family will become sick. As part of National Food Safety Education Month, here are some tips for keeping your refrigerator bug-free.
Keep it Cold
That little dial on your refrigerator helps you set the internal temperature, but unless it comes with a thermometer, there's no way of telling how cold your fridge actually is. Use a thermometer to make sure it's below 40 degrees. Any higher and your food enters the danger zone where harmful bacteria can multiply.
Pack it Right
Leftovers and groceries shouldn't be left out for more than two hours, so get them into the fridge as soon as possible. Bacteria can begin to grow on foods that have been left out for longer than two hours. Avoid over-packing since cool air needs to be able to circulate freely in order to keep things cold.
To avoid cross contamination, fresh fruits and vegetables should be kept separate from raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs. Meat should be placed in dishes or bowls that can catch any liquids that result from defrosting or storing.
Keep it Clean
Your fridge does a great job slowing bacteria growth, but doesn't kill it outright. This is why regular cleaning is absolutely necessary. While meat is commonly associated with food poisoning, a recent NSF International study found that the refrigerator produce compartment had the most germs of any other part of the kitchen.
Clean your bins, shelves and walls with hot soapy water and dry with a clean cloth towel. Spills, especially if they're meat juices, should be cleaned up immediately and regularly throw out food that is old, rotten or moldy.
For more information about safe refrigerator storage visit FoodSafety.gov.