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How to store food safely in the fridge

12 May 2014

You might think foodborne disease is a condition of less economically developed nations, but around one third of people in industrialised nations (like the US, UK & Australia) get sick from food poisoning each year. Not all of these cases of food poisoning may be serious but you might be shocked by the statistics:

Discover some of common mistakes people make and how to avoid a nasty case of food poisoning by reading the tips below.

Common Mistakes

  • Overfilling the fridge – Even some modern fridges can’t regulate a cool temperature evenly throughout when it is crammed full of food.
  • Leaving leftovers out – Simply leaving a casserole or the remains of a roast dinner out for more than two hours can harbour bacteria and cause food poisoning when consumed the next day as leftovers.
  • Picnicking without an esky – Smallgoods, cheeses and dips may seem ok to leave out for a whole day during a picnic or barbeque but these unsuspecting foods can be carriers of Salmonella, E.Coli or other bacteria like Staphylococcus Aureus.

Did you know?

Australians are the second hungriest meat-eaters in the world, according to UN Food and Agriculture Organisation statistics. We eat a lot of meat, particularly salmonella-prone chicken. Chicken consumption per capita has increased seven times over the past 50 years, becoming the most widely consumed meat in the country. As the population gets older and more susceptible to bacterial infections, we need to be more careful about food storage now more than ever. Statistics show the incidence of gastroenteritis has increased 79% since 2001 while the hospitalisation rate has risen from 4% to 10% in the last decade. Below are a few more tips to make sure you and your family don’t suffer debilitating symptoms like stomach cramps, violent diarrhea and vomiting.



Storing Food Safely in the Fridge


Monitor Refrigeration Temperature

High risk foods should be kept in safe storage below 5 °C and frozen foods should be kept in conditions no warmer than -15 °C. High risk foods to be kept in the fridge are:

  • Dairy products
  • Eggs
  • Meat and seafood (raw and cooked)
  • Smallgoods and dips
  • Cooked pasta and rice
  • Prepared salads and fruit

If your fridge and freezer doesn’t have an in built thermostat, record the temperature every so often in the middle of the shelving.


Food Storage & Shelf Lives

The Shelf life of Your Food

Storing Meat and Eggs

Raw meat can be one of the most risky foods to deal with when it comes to storage. Bacteria-ridden meat juices can cross-contaminate other foods it comes in contact with and the smell of rotten meat can take days or weeks to eliminate. Follow these essential tips below to stay out of trouble:

  • ALWAYS store raw meat and seafood on the bottom shelf of your fridge and safely away from improperly sealed food and cooked meat.
  • Buy your meat and smallgoods at the end of your shopping trip and get home as soon as possible. This means within 30 minutes on a hot day.
  • Take insulated shopping bags or a freezer brick with you when you go to the butcher.
  • If the meat you buy doesn’t have appropriate packaging or trays to soak up any residual juices, put it on a plate before you put it in the fridge.
  • Unless you have access to freshly laid eggs every single morning, you should always refrigerate your carton of eggs in a separate area away from any moisture.

Storing Dairy

As dairy products are particularly sensitive to temperature change and susceptible to numerous types of bacteria that cause food poisoning, it’s important to keep them consistently cool. When storing milk, cream, yogurt and cheese, keep these guidelines in mind:

  • Do not be keep dairy out of refrigeration for any longer than two hours.
  • Always store dairy products in their original packaging. Otherwise, use waxed paper for cheeses.
  • The softer the cheese, the shorter the shelf life. Fresh cheeses like ricotta, feta or cottage cheese only last for up to one week. See how other cheeses vary.
  • Try not to put your milk in the door of the fridge where it is most exposed to warmer temperatures. For cheeses and other dairy products, use the protected section of your fridge to keep them cool and separated from other types of foods.

Storing Fresh Foods

It is a common misconception that you are not likely to get sick from salads, fruit and vegetables. The key to storing these foods is making sure they don’t get too moist or too dry. Follow these steps to make sure your fruit and vegetables keep well:

  • DO NOT rinse your fruit and vegetables before you refrigerate them.
  • Store fruit and vegetables in the bottom crisper of your fridge and avoid pushing them to the back where they may start to freeze. Find out which areas of the fridge keep particular fresh foods best.
  • Make sure you only use clean and dry plastic bags to store fruit and vegetables in.
  • Prepackaged salad greens have a much shorter shelf life than fresh salads. Use these first and within 1-2 days of purchase.

Storing and Freezing Leftovers

Cooking gigantic meals or taking home ‘doggy bags’ from a restaurant can be a convenient option for tomorrow’s lunch but it could also be responsible for your next bout of food poisoning. Here are some tips for storing leftovers:

  • It is a golden rule that you don’t leave any cooked leftovers out of the fridge for more than two hours.
  • When it comes time to storing them in the fridge or freezer, use a non-toxic airtight container. A flat and shallow design is best as the food will cool down and reheat quicker.
  • AVOID refreezing thawed food where possible as the meal is potentially exposed to more harmful bacteria each time it is thawed.


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