In Your Refrigerator

Tips on good Food Safety Practices in your Refrigerator

The following is information obtained from the USDA Food Safety website. For more details on Refrigerator Food Safety you can visit their website at www.fsis.usda.gov

Safe Refrigerator Temperature

For safety, it is important to verify the temperature of the refrigerator. Refrigerators should be set to maintain a temperature of 40 °F or below. An appliance thermometer can be kept in the refrigerator to monitor the temperature. This can be critical in the event of a power outage. When the power goes back on, if the refrigerator is still 40 °F, the food is safe. Foods held at temperatures above 40 °F for more than 2 hours should not be consumed. Appliance thermometers are specifically designed to provide accuracy at cold temperatures. Be sure refrigerator/freezer doors are closed tightly at all times. Don’t open refrigerator/freezer doors more often than necessary and close them as soon as possible.

Safe Handling of Foods for Refrigerating

Hot food can be placed directly in the refrigerator or it can be rapidly chilled in an ice or cold water bath before refrigerating. Cover foods to retain moisture and prevent them from picking up odors from other foods.

A large pot of food like soup or stew should be divided into small portions and put in shallow containers before being refrigerated. A large cut of meat or whole poultry should be divided into smaller pieces and wrapped separately or placed in shallow containers before refrigerating.

Placement of Foods

The temperature in a refrigerator should be 40 °F or below throughout the cabinet, so any place within the cabinet is safe for storage of any food. Raw meat, poultry, and seafood should be in a sealed container or wrapped securely to prevent raw juices from contaminating other foods.

Some refrigerators have special features such as adjustable shelves, door bins, crispers, and meat/cheese drawers. These features are designed to make storage of foods more convenient and to provide an optimal storage environment for fruits, vegetables, meats, poultry, and cheese.

Safety of Foods Stored on the Door

Don’t store perishable foods on the door. Eggs should be stored in the carton on a shelf. The temperature of the storage bins on the door fluctuate more than the temperature in the cabinet. Keep the door closed as much as possible.

Keeping the Refrigerator Clean

One very important step in keeping your food safe is keeping your refrigerator clean. Wipe up spills immediately – clean surfaces thoroughly with hot, soapy water; then rinse.

Once a week, make it a habit to throw out perishable foods that should no longer be eaten. A general rule of thumb for refrigerator storage for cooked leftovers is 4 days; raw poultry and ground meats, 1 to 2 days. Refer to the cold storage chart for storage of meat, poultry, and egg products in the home refrigerator.

To keep the refrigerator smelling fresh and help eliminate odors, place an opened box of baking soda on a shelf. Avoid using solvent cleaning agents, abrasives, and all cleansers that may impart taste to food or ice cubes, or cause damage to the interior finish of your refrigerator. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Removing Odors

If food has spoiled in a refrigerator – such as during a power outage – and odors from the food remain, they can be difficult to remove. The following procedures may have to be repeated.

  • Wipe inside of unit with equal parts vinegar and water. Vinegar provides acid which destroys mildew.
  • Wash inside of unit with a solution of baking soda and water. Be sure to scrub the gaskets, shelves, sides, and door. Allow to air out several days.
  • Stuff unit with rolled newspapers. Close the door and leave for several days. Remove paper and clean with vinegar and water.
  • Sprinkle fresh coffee grounds or baking soda loosely in the bottom of the unit, or place them in an open container.
  • Place a cotton swab soaked with vanilla inside freezer. Close door for 24 hours. Check for odors.
  • Use a commercial product available at hardware and housewares stores. Follow the manufacturers’ instructions.