Refrigerator food safety isn’t a topic that usually gets attention. In fact, most people don’t give much thought to how well their refrigerators are cooling until they give them a problem. As long as it feels cold inside and is running, you assume that your food is fine and being properly chilled. Yet, you may be in for a surprise to hear that your refrigerator may not be keeping your food safe.
As you may have noticed, I was sharing quite a few recipes using sour milk lately. My Prized Irish Soda Bread recipe is one. I blamed the store for not keeping their milk cold enough. After this milk soured a few times and a week before the expiration date, I knew I had to buy a refrigerator thermometer.
How Well Is Your Refrigerator Keeping Your Food Safe?
After using the thermometer, I found my food was not in the safe zone. The temperature inside your refrigerator needs to at 40 °F or below with the freezer measuring at 0 °F to keep bacteria from growing.
My first thought was clean out my refrigerator, then try to melt any trapped ice with my blow dryer in the vents. After pulling off the attached box panel in the freezer compartment, my guy had access to these vents after watching a helpful YouTube video. Anyway, we cleaned and heated it the best that we could before filling it back up to check to see if our work helped the situation. My refrigerator took a while to get colder again, but the heating did make the temperature gage go up.
Despite the improvement that is closer to the safe range, my refrigerator needs to go. Every time the door opens, the temperatures drops inside to the unsafe range so I don’t have confidence in my refrigerator. I didn’t plan to spend the extra money right now on a refrigerator, but I will be getting a new one now that I figured this sour milk mess out and tried all options to fix the cooling problem.
Refrigerator thermometers are inexpensive and about $6.00 a piece or less. You can buy one for inside of the refrigerator and another for the freezer section. Doing so can really help give you peace of mind about the safety of your stored food over than trusting the knob or gage that you turn for warmer to cooler temperatures inside your refrigerator.
In the meanwhile, I have some refrigerator food storage tips that can also help keep you and your family safer from food contamination.
One of the biggest mistakes you can make is over crowding your refrigerator or freezer with food. You don’t want to risk blocking any vent holes that could limit cold air circulating. Therefore, avoid having any foods too close to the vents in the refrigerator and your freezer.
Wipe all spills as soon as possible, which we do anyway. The longer you allow the spill to remain, the more you risk inviting the Listeria bacteria into your food and chance food cross-contamination.
Don’t leave your food out for an extended period. Put away your groceries as soon as possible, especially in summer heat. Though the food can be out for up two hours when the temperature is less than 90-degrees and only one hour when it reaches 90-degrees, you need to take into account how long it takes you to drive home and then put the groceries away in your refrigerator. It also helps to keep a cooler in your trunk to tote your perishables home. A Styrofoam cooler works in a pinch.
The same rule applies to hot cooked foods. You don’t want to wait for them to cool first before covering and refrigerating. If you want those foods to cool faster, store them in smaller containers helps. Putting those hot dishes away while they are still hot will not hurt your refrigerator.
Clean your refrigerator often even to sections where you don’t have easy access such as under the vegetable bins.
A dangerous practice is thawing meats and poultry at room temperature. Instead, you can safely thaw the meat in the refrigerator in cold water that you change every half hour until melting.
Another way to unthaw is using your microwave. If you unthaw this way, you need to cook the meat immediately.
I hope that everyone buys a refrigerator thermometer to keep a check on your food. Unfortunately, I learned the hard way and hope that sharing my experience helps you.