The summer is getting into full swing and many of us have fresh produce from the garden and farmer’s market piling up in the refrigerator.
We don’t want to waste a bite of that great fresh flavor because it may have been contaminated by something we might have stored beside it.
That’s especially true if that something should have been tossed out a week ago or is a dirty produce drawer!
Many of us realize that keeping the refrigerator and freezer clean and stocked efficiently will help keep our food fresh and safe to eat.
This is important not just at home but also at work, in the dorm room, or wherever we store our food.
Did you know that bacteria thrives in a cool, moist environment and Listeria can grow in the refrigerator even when the temperature is below recommended levels?
The produce drawer in your refrigerator can be one of the germiest places in your home!
Food Safety and Our Refrigerators
Hand washing and hand sanitizers are being used with a greater frequency as we learn about the link between illness and germs.
We are washing our hands before we prepare our food and before we eat. We make sure our kids are doing the same.
Many of us understand the need to keep our food preparation areas and utensils clean, avoid cross contamination, ensure that our food is thoroughly cooked and hold it at the proper temperatures to avoid food poisoning.
Have you looked at the Temperature Danger Zone resource to learn when your food is at risk?
Most of us are working hard to fight against the germs that want to spoil our foods and our family’s health.
But we may have forgotten because our lives are busier than ever to keep our refrigerator (and freezer) clean too. It is after all where we keep the most vulnerable foods that keep us healthy.
We may wipe off a spill when it happens, but when was the last time you fully cleaned out the refrigerator, either at home or work?
Leftovers and spoiled food can lead to a contaminated refrigerator and their spills can create a breeding zone for harmful bacteria that cause foodborne illness.
Tips for Cleaning Your Fridge!
Cleaning the fridge (and freezer) isn’t that difficult in terms of skill, though it may be easier to remember to do it more regularly if we could get a reminder to do it more often than we do now.
If that is the case, use your smartphone to schedule a regular reminder to clean it out.
At work, it might mean that you need to create a calendar with the names of staff who can rotate the job of cleaning out the common refrigerator that keeps your lunches, snacks and drinks safe from contamination.
When it is a work refrigerator, put someone in charge of keeping cleaning solution and cloths available to avoid any excuses for not getting the job done.
It will also be important to have someone designated to regularly check the internal thermometer to be sure the unit is properly functioning.
When the refrigerator is in your home, it usually falls to one person to do the heavy cleaning and everyone in the family to do day to day spill patrol.
Check Storage Temperatures, Too
The home refrigerator should also have a thermometer that can read the internal temperature as well as one in the freezer.
It is pretty surprising to learn that 43% of home refrigerators are kept above 40 degrees F, which puts their food and their health at risk.
Setting the temperature adjustment device does not indicate what the actual internal temperature will be, so it is a good idea to keep a thermometer inside to be able to monitor it regularly.
Here are some tips to help you stay on track and keep your family safe from foodborne illness every day.
- Create a refrigerator cleaning schedule for your fridge at home, work and wherever you store your perishable food.
- Use warm soapy water to clean surfaces and handles thoroughly.
- Wipe out shelves in the door and body of the refrigerator and clean the tracks under the shelves.
- Remove the vegetable bins and clean out inside the refrigerator behind the bin.
- Clean the egg and butter storage areas.
- Use an internal thermometer in both the refrigerator and freezer to be sure they are holding your food at the correct temperature. It should read 40 degrees F or below in the refrigerator and 0 degrees F in the freezer.
- Place meats on the bottom shelf so juices don’t spill onto produce or other ready-to-eat foods.
- Place labels on leftovers so you know when they will spoil.
- Discard produce that is past its prime and and look at dates on labels to toss expired packaged foods.
- Don’t forget the freezer!
Developing a routine that fits in your schedule will make it a little bit easier to keep the germs out of your refrigerator (and freezer) and your family free from foodborne illness!