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Get The Cold Facts About Your Refrigerator

You’re not alone if you don’t know the recommended temperature for your refrigerator.

We often hear about a foodborne illness outbreak (formerly known as food poisoning). Oftentimes these outbreaks are traced back to commercial operations, food service establishments and restaurants. But what about foodborne illness caused in homes? Approximately half of all cases occur from foods prepared at home. Many of the “stomach flu bugs” we get are never reported to doctors and therefore, cannot be confirmed as foodborne illnesses.

Recent research found that consumers don’t realize that their own refrigerators can contribute to an increased potential for the illness. Here’s what the research found:

You’re not alone if you don’t know the recommended temperature for your refrigerator. According to research, 65 per cent of the research participants don’t know that the temperature for a refrigerator needs to be below 4C to prevent micro-organisms from rapidly growing and multiplying.

Do you know the temperature of your refrigerator? About 15 per cent of the participants knew their own refrigerator’s temperature. And of those who said they own a refrigerator thermometer, very few check them.

Another issue of confusion is that people think the thermostat which is used to raise or lower the temperature is a thermometer. It is not. Refrigerator thermometers can be purchased at stores carrying kitchen supplies and are an inexpensive investment in the safety of your food.

Most refrigerators’ internal temperatures exceed the recommended 4C or lower. Researchers measured the internal temperatures of refrigerators using infrared sensors. The doors of refrigerators consistently were the warmest area of the fridge. If you currently store milk and eggs in the fridge door consider moving them to an interior shelf.

How often do you thoroughly clean your refrigerator? A thorough cleaning was defined as emptying out the fridge, cleaning out the interior surfaces, removing the bins and shelves, and washing and drying them. By doing a thorough cleaning twice a month the risk of microbial contamination decreases. The areas showing greatest levels of contamination are the fruit and vegetable bin, the bottom shelf and the meat bin.

– Kathy Brandt is a food

science educator with University of Minnesota Extension.

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