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Cleaning the House? Don’t Forget the Refrigerator

When cleaning, many don’t include their refrigerators on their list of places to check. Cleaning your refrigerator and freezer is an important step in any cleaning regime.  Doing so will help you prevent foodborne illness.

Before you start cleaning, check your appliance thermometer to make sure you fridge is keeping your food at 40 °F or below. This temperature keeps bacteria growth at bay.  If you don’t already have an appliance thermometer, pick one up the next time you are at the grocery store. Your freezer should measure 0 °F or below.

graphic of an open fridge that has food in it.  Text reads: Make sure your fridge is set at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit and Store raw meats in a container or dish to prevent juices from leaking.]

Cleaning Your Refrigerator

  • Keeping a trash bag handy, check the dates on ALL containers, packages and condiments. Dispose of anything that is past its date OR is not dated. Refer to our Storage Times Chart for guidelines on perishable products in the refrigerator.
  • Do not attempt to taste items to see if they’re still good. The bacteria that cause food poisoning cannot be smelled or tasted.
  • While cleaning, follow the 2-hour rule. Leaving food out too long at room temperature can cause bacteria to grow to dangerous levels that can cause illness.  Perishable foods should never be left out for longer than two hours.
  • Wash removable shelves and drawers with soap and warm water. Avoid using solvent cleaning agents, abrasives, and all cleansers that may impart a chemical taste to food or ice cubes.
  • To keep the refrigerator smelling fresh and help eliminate odors, place an opened box of baking soda on a shelf.

Organizing Your Refrigerator

Now that the refrigerator is squeaky clean, here’s how to keep your refrigerator organized and free of potentially dangerous foodborne bacteria:

  • Place meat, poultry or seafood in containers or sealed plastic bags to prevent their juices from dripping onto other food in the refrigerator. This prevents cross-contamination.
  • Do not store perishable foods in the door.  The temperature in the door fluctuate more than the temperature in the cabinet. It is safer to store perishables in the back of the refrigerator where it is colder and the temperature is more stable.

Keep fruits and vegetables in separate drawers and away from raw meat, poultry, or seafood to avoid cross-contamination.  Throw away fresh fruits and vegetables that have not been refrigerated within 2 hours of cutting, peeling, or cooking.


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Posted in: Food SafetyTagged: Food Safety | Foodborne Illness