Is your refrigerator safe?

Go 40 degrees or below for safe food.

A home refrigerator in the safe temperature range is one of the most effective ways to reduce the incidence of foodborne illness. How would you answer these questions?

  • Is your refrigerator at a safe temperature to keep your food safe?
  • Do you know what the temperature is inside your refrigerator?
  • Do you know what the temperature should be inside the refrigerator? If you said between 38-40 degrees Fahrenheit, then you are correct. 

According to the Partnership for Food Safety Education, harmful bacteria that cause food poisoning thrive and grow at warmer temperatures. So, when food is left out too long at room temperature, or when a home refrigerator is set too warm, bacteria like Salmonella Enteritidis, Escherichia coli O157:H7, and Campylobacter can grow to dangerous levels that might make you and your family sick. To keep bacteria from multiplying to numbers large enough to make someone sick, Michigan State University Extension recommends consumers keep cold foods in the refrigerator at a temperature of 40 degrees or below. If your refrigerator temperature is above the recommended 40 degrees then your food is actually being exposed to the temperature danger zone, a range of temperatures from 40-140 degrees Fahrenheit where bacteria can grow rapidly. 

Many individuals make the unsafe assumption that the refrigerator is always at a proper temperature, when many times that is not the case. The only way to make sure that your refrigerator is at that safe 38-40 degree temperature range is to have a refrigerator thermometer inside and monitor the temperature often. Thermometers are very inexpensive and can be purchased at many hardware stores, supermarkets, and grocery stores. 

Other refrigerator tips to keep your food safe include:

  • Label foods before refrigerating them
  • Do not overstuff the refrigerator unit (you need to allow for good air flow and circulation)
  • Divide foods into shallow containers and/or smaller pieces before refrigerating to allow for proper cooling
  • Keep the refrigerator door closed as much as possible
  • Keep the refrigerator clean, including the shelves and drawers
  • If you don’t consume food items and leftovers, discard on a regular basis 

Go 40 degrees or below and follow the simple steps above to keep the food inside your refrigerators safe for everyone to enjoy and free from illness causing bacteria.

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