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FOOD TODAY 01/2001

Proper Food Storage in the Refrigerator

Food TodayRefrigerator storage is an important way of keeping food safe. The cool temperature helps to keep the food fresh and slow the growth of most harmful microbes. At the same time, it does not change the characteristics of the food.

The proper temperature for a refrigerator is 5°C on the middle shelf. However, the temperature is not constant throughout the interior. By taking advantage of the temperature differences, you can ensure optimal storage for all your food.

The coldest point in the refrigerator is the bottom shelf on the drawers used for vegetables (2°C). This is the place to put fresh meat and fish. Placing them at the bottom also prevents them from dripping onto other foods.

Store eggs, dairy products, sandwich meats, leftovers, cakes, and products marked "Refrigerate when opened" on the middle shelves (4-5°) and the top shelf (8°C). The drawers at the bottom (up to 10°C) are intended for vegetables and fruits that can be damaged by lower temperatures. The compartments or shelves on the inside of the door are the warmest part of the refrigerator (10-15°C) and are intended for products that need only light refrigeration. These include drinks, mustard and butter.

Do not put too much food in the refrigerator. If it is loaded to the point that there is no space between the items, air cannot circulate and this affects the temperature distribution. If frost is allowed to accumulate, the refrigerator will not function efficiently. In addition space is reduced when frost builds up. Defrost your refrigerator regularly using warm water with a little bit of vinegar to remove odours.

Note that some foods do not need, and may even lose quality, by refrigeration; for example, exotic fruits, tomatoes, green beans, cucumbers and zucchini. Bread goes stale more quickly in the refrigerator. Fruits and vegetables that need to ripen should also be kept at room temperature.

During summer, the temperature dial will need to be set at a colder setting than during the winter. Be sure the door is closed tightly at all times. Open the doors only when necessary and close them as soon as possible.

Wrap or cover food to prevent loss of moisture and flavour. Put leftovers in clean, shallow covered containers. Do not put large amounts of warm food in the refrigerator as this will raise the temperature; cool the food for a short time at room temperature (remember that any cooked leftovers should be put into the refrigerator within two hours after being served).

Practice FIFO (First-In-First-Out). When stocking food storage areas, place recently purchased items behind items that are already there. This procedure will help ensure that you are consuming food prior to expiration date/spoilage and helps reduce the amount of food that has to be discarded.

Keep in mind that food is kept safe in the fridge only as long as indicated on the label. If you have doubts about a food, or about how long it has been in the refrigerator, throw it out. A great help is also a fridge thermometer to make sure that the refrigerator is always at a safe temperature.

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The European Food Information Council (EUFIC) is a non-profit organisation which communicates science-based information on nutrition and health, food safety and quality, to help consumers to be better informed when choosing a well-balanced, safe and healthful diet.

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This site was last updated 20/09/2016
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