Spring is here! Which means warmer weather, flowers blooming, outdoor activities, and of course everyone’s favorite—spring cleaning. As we all begin to tidy up the house and throw out junk, many people often forget to add the refrigerator to your spring-cleaning list. Cleaning out your fridge is very important. Food safety can become an issue if food is kept too long or at the wrong temperatures. These foods can become contaminated with bacteria and be harmful to human health. So, make sure you go through and clean-out your refrigerator this spring season.
Keep it Safe
- The refrigerator slows bacterial growth. It should be kept at 40°F or less and the freezer at 0°F or less.
- The “Danger Zone,” is between 40°F and 140°F. This is where bacteria grow the fastest.
- Check the temperature often because it can change, especially in warmer weather.
- Adjust the settings if the temperatures get too high. This may also be a sign if the refrigerator is not working properly and it may need fixing.
Keep It Clean
- Bacteria spreads even faster with a dirty fridge.
- Wipe up spills right away.
- Give your fridge a good cleaning by wiping down all shelves, compartments, and interior walls with hot, soapy water. Do this once a week.
- Look for unnoticed spills and remove remaining odors that may be lingering.
- Put an opened box of baking soda on a shelf to help eliminate odors and keep it smelling fresh.
Keep it Organized
- Condiments: The door is best for long-term shelf-life items since it is the warmest part.
- Milk or Juices: Keep it in the back of the bottom shelf, where it is the coldest.
- Eggs: Place in the center of the fridge with their original cartoons.
- Deli meat: The meat drawer is ideal for highly perishable deli meats and cheeses since it has an additional blast of cold air.
- Produce: The crisper drawers are for fruits and vegetables. If able, set controls to higher humidity for vegetables and lower humidity for fruits.
- Raw meats, poultries or seafood: Store on the bottom shelf and ensure they are wrapped tightly or in sealed containers.
FDA Advice: When in Doubt, Throw It Out
- Toss it if the food looks or smells bad— don’t even risk it. Although, food can go bad even if it doesn’t smell or look bad.
- Throw out any “mysterious foods” or questionable foods.
- Food with mold should be thrown away. But, mold can be cut away with a few foods, such as hard cheeses, salami, and firm fruits, if a large enough section is removed.
- Throw out expired foods!
- Follow “best-if-used-by” dates, since they are the most reliable.
- Check “use-by” or “sell-by” dates, but these don’t apply after being opened.
- Store leftovers in tight containers (within two hours after cooking) for up to 3-5 days.
Created by: Jacquelyn Valle, Graduate Student, Dietetic Intern
Prepared by Hospitality Dietitian Mindy Diller, MS, RDN, LD firstname.lastname@example.org