Kitchen spring cleaning to keep food safe

While spring cleaning, don’t forget the pantry and refrigerator.

As you spring clean the house and closets, don’t forget the pantry and refrigerator. Food safety should extend to how and where you store your foods. Here are some suggestions to get you started.

  • Get a refrigerator thermometer to make sure foods are stored at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below. In your freezer you should also have a thermometer to ensure foods are kept at 0 degree.
  • More perishable foods should be kept in the “meat drawer,” which is usually the coldest section. It’s acceptable to store condiments in the refrigerator door, but keep eggs, milk and yogurt in the main compartment for optimal freshness. Michigan State University Extension and Food Safety News recommend the following steps for cleaning the refrigerator:
    • In the door: The door is the least cold part of the refrigerator and is best for condiments, pickles, salad dressings and other foods with a high acid (think vinegar) content to resist bacterial growth.
    • The coldest shelf: The middle of the refrigerator, sometimes also containing a separate meat drawer, is best for highly perishable foods like fish, deli meats, eggs or dairy. The refrigerator stores everything from leftovers to thawed meat to milk and vegetables, and it’s important to place things in the right spot to maximize effectiveness of the refrigerator and minimize cross-contamination.
    • The middle/lower shelves: Great places for leftovers.
    • Bottom drawers: The fruit and vegetable crispers maintain higher humidity, helping to preserve thin-skinned veggies like peppers, broccoli and leafy greens.
    • Spring cleaning is a good time to use or throw away foods that are losing their quality or have spoiled, for both refrigerated items and non-refrigerated items in the pantry. For a detailed listing of the shelf-life of foods, as well as a kitchen safety quiz, download the free “Is My Food Safe?” app.
    • Make spring cleaning the time to begin new food safety habits. Once a week, make it a habit to throw out perishable foods that should no longer be eaten.
    • The refrigerator should be deep cleaned twice a year. Empty the contents and store in a cooler with a cold source of ice packs while you clean the walls and shelves, nooks and crannies of the refrigerator. Use warm, soapy water or a cleaning solution as recommended in the manufacturer’s instructions. Remember, you can’t always tell if a food has spoiled by its smell or appearance. Don’t take chances with your health. Good advice to follow from the Food and Drug Administration: When it doubt, throw it out!
    • In the pantry: clean shelves, check to see if packages are intact, organize and group items by types. Organize to enable visibility of all items.

Use those rainy spring days to take the time to spring clean your kitchen. This can help minimize food waste and foodborne illnesses.

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