We keep food in the refrigerator to preserve its freshness and keep it safe. Cold temperatures keep food fresh and inhibit the growth of most bacteria.
However, food spoiling microorganisms can still grow and multiply slowly over time, so there is a limit to the length of time various foods will stay fresh in the refrigerator. Eventually food will begin to look or smell bad and should be thrown out. Use the following temperature and storage tips to help keep perishable food safe.
Set the refrigerator to maintain a temperature of 40oF or below. Keep a refrigerator thermometer in the unit or check the temperature periodically. The control may need to be adjusted seasonally. For example, a refrigerator set for 40oF in the summer may be too cold for the winter, resulting in frozen lettuce or milk. Don’t overload the refrigerator. Air must circulate freely to cool all foods evenly.
- Leave meat and poultry products in the store wrap before using, since repeated handling can introduce bacteria into the product or spread bacteria around the kitchen.
- Store opened food in foil, plastic wrap, leak-proof plastic bags or airtight containers to keep food from drying out.
- Place meat, poultry and seafood in the coldest part of the refrigerator. Store eggs in their original carton on a shelf, not in the door.
- Defrost frozen meats or marinate meats in the refrigerator where they will remain safe – never on the kitchen counter.
- Clean the refrigerator regularly to remove spoiled foods so that bacteria can’t be passed to other foods.