Whether you’re putting food away in the refrigerator or freezer, you need to take caution to prevent foodborne illnesses. These illnesses are caused by microorganisms such as Salmonella, E. coli O157:H7, and C. botulinum. Keeping foods chilled at proper temps is the best way to prevent or slow the growth of these bacteria.
Basic Food Storage Tips
1. Keep appliances at the proper temperatures.
2. Make sure you are checking your appliances temps regularly and that they fall in the desired range.
Refrigerator temperature should be at or below 40° F (4° C)
Freezer temperature should be 0° F (-18° C).
3. Check storage directions on labels.
4. Most people think that only dairy or meats need to be kept cold, but don’t forget about condiments (i.e. mayo and ketchup) because most of these need to be placed in the fridge after opening. If in doubt that you haven’t stored an item properly, it’s usually best to throw it out. Don’t chance it, you could get really sick!
4. Perishables need to be placed in the fridge or freezer right away. Stick to the “two-hour rule”.
5. Foods should not be left out at room temperature for any longer than two hours, or if the air temperature is above 90° F, it’s recommended to only have the food out for one hour. This rule applies to all food, even take-out!
6. Don’t crowd the refrigerator or freezer. When putting food away, it is important to leave space for air to circulate.
7. Use ready-to-eat foods as soon as possible. Refrigerated ready-to-eat foods (i.e. lunch meats) need to be eaten as soon as possible. This is because the longer they’re stored in the fridge, the more likely bacterium that causes food borne illness can grow.
8. Keep an eye on your food, throw out spoiled food. If it looks or smells different and suspicious don’t take a chance, go ahead and throw it out.
Food safety is in your hands. Practice these simple rules and help keep yourself safe and minimize your exposure to potential harmful and life-threatening illnesses.