A healthy fridge
Taken for granted though it is, the refrigerator is a beautiful thing.
Before it’s advent, perishable foods needed to be consumed almost immediately to prevent risk of dangerous contamination. Luckily for us, modern appliances can prolong the life of many of our foods and help us prevent needless waste. It’s simply a matter of knowing what to do.
The following is a guide to keeping a healthy kitchen, put together with information kindly provided by the Food Safety Information Council and Food Science Australia. Not only will these tips help keep your food fresh, nutritious and contamination free for longer, they’ll also greatly reduce the amount of food waste produced in your household.
As You Shop
The management of your refrigerated food supply starts when you’re shopping. That means it’s best to keep a series of factors in mind when you start your normal food shopping trip:
- Buy refrigerated food last and never leave chilled foods sitting in the car for long periods. By reducing the amount of time you keep foods out refrigeration, the more prolonged shelf life they’ll have.
- Avoid overbuying perishable foods. While bargain offers for dry goods can be used up over time, perishable foods will have a far shorter lifespan. Bargains may also have a reduced shelf life. Make sure you solid plans – and enough time – to use them up before you invest in bulk buying perishables.
- Don’t buy swollen refrigerated food packages. Swelling means microbes have grown and produced gas, indicating that they’ve been stored at warm temperatures or that they are going off. Also make sure to examine chilled products packed in transparent films for mould growth.
- As soon as you get home read the storage instructions on packaged foods. Then if necessary refrigerate them to avoid reducing storage life.
This information is adapted from Food Science Australia.
Once You’re Home
Storing food in the fridge
All perishable and cooked food needs to be stored in your fridge. This will not only prevent the growth of food poisoning bacteria, but it will reduce spoilage.
Your fridge is a little like an ecosystem – each space within it offers slightly different storage conditions which suit different kinds of foods. Things to remember:
- Store raw meats, fish and poultry where it is coldest. In many fridges this is the bottom shelf.
- Always store ready to eat food above raw food. This particularly applies to raw meats and poultry’s, where it’s important to make sure that juices don’t drip onto other foods. These juices might contain food poisoning bacteria which can contaminate other food if they drip onto it. If you have to store raw meats or poultry on higher shelves, put them in leak-proof, covered containers.
- Avoid raw and cooked foods touching and keep them separated in the fridge.
- Cover any cooked or ready-to-eat foods stored in the fridge to reduce the risk of cross contamination.
- Don’t overcrowd food in your fridge. This can easily happen at Christmas or when you’re having a party. To cool food and keep it cool the air must be able to circulate around the food. Remove any foods such as drinks which don’t have to be in the fridge and keep them cool in an ice filled cooler or basin.
- Use shallow containers to cool food faster. Cool food on the bench only until steam stops rising. Then place the hot food directly into the container, cover with a lid and put it in the fridge.
Information kindly provided by the Food Safety Information Council.
The temperature of your fridge is important! Did you know that you should keep your fridge set to 5°C or below? According to recent research, most Australians don’t know that cold food should be stored below this temperature. Yet this simple step can considerably reduce the chances of you or your family getting food poisoning.
Controlling fridge temperature
If possible keep a fridge thermometer in the fridge to make sure the temperature stays around 4-5°C. Many fridges only have temperature settings of ‘high’, ‘low’ or a series of numbers without showing the actual temperature.
You do get some clues when your fridge is having trouble coping. If the motor stays on most of the time, or if your milk, cottage cheese, meat (particularly mince meat) or other perishables are going off quicker than they should, then this is a sign that your fridge is struggling and needs maintenance and/or adjustment. To check if your fridge is operating at the correct temperature you need a thermometer in the fridge. When you have one you might get some surprises. The temperature inside your fridge will vary several degrees as the fridge goes through its cycle. It will also vary markedly from one section to another. If the temperature drops too low, you can get undesirable freezing.
Remember that in summer conditions you may have to adjust your fridge to cope with the extra warm conditions.
Where should you place your fridge thermometer?
Temperatures will vary throughout your fridge and with the type of fridge you have. The door is usually the warmest part and the top shelf is often the warmest shelf (this can vary with the make of your fridge – check the manual for particular details of your model). We suggest you place your thermometer below the top shelf and towards the door to give a general indication of the fridge temperature.
If it shows your fridge is higher than 5°C, adjust the fridge setting to lower the temperature. The crispers for fruit and vegetables will usually be slightly warmer so that the fruit and vegetables don’t freeze. To avoid accidentally freezing your lettuce, it’s best to keep it in the crisper. You might have to adjust the fridge a few times to get it right. Ideally, you want the main compartment to spend most of its time around 4-5°C.
Be aware of storage life of chilled food
Store these in the coldest part of the refrigeration section of your refrigerator. These food groups will generally keep for the amount of time indicated below (but this depends on variables such as their freshness at the time of purchase, fridge conditions etc).
2 DAYS: Crustaceans and molluscs
3 DAYS: Seafood, meat, minced meat, cured meat, poultry
5 – 7 DAYS: Milk, Cream,
7 – 14 DAYS: Fruit Juices
3 – 6 WEEKS: Eggs
8 WEEKS: Butter
Cheese are variable depending on variety – soft cheeses are edible for between 10 days and 2-3 weeks, while harder cheese are fine for 1 – 3 months.
This information is adapted from Food Science Australia.