Refrigerator Hygiene 101
Do you sniff, morph into Sherlock Holmes and start looking for clues each time you open your refrigerator door? Maybe it's time to take ownership of your fridge.
Here are some questions to ask yourself.
- Is your fridge keeping the correct temperatures? An inexpensive freestanding appliance thermometer is an excellent tool that will help you get to know your fridge. Place it in several spots such as the top, middle and bottom shelves, door bins, fresh food compartments and freezer to ensure all areas are under 40deg F (in the fridge) and 0deg F or lower (in the freezer).
- When was the last time you cleaned the inside? If you can't remember, it's time.
- When was the last time you cleaned the condenser coils?
- Is real estate in your fridge more difficult to find than a beach condo in the Hamptons? Over packing your fridge reduces air circulation and causes uneven cooling.
- Are you considering putting "safe-to-eat tags" on certain food items in your fridge? Don't do it. Throw them out.
Cleaning - Keeping your refrigerator clean not only keeps it smelling fresh it may help keep your family healthy. The federal government estimates there are about 48 million cases of foodborne illness annually. Salmonella, E.coli and other hard-to-pronounce pathogenic organisms can be found in your fridge and are especially dangerous to children and the elderly. And it isn't only foul-smelling food that can make you very sick. The FDA recommends these general refrigerator strategies to keep your food safe.
- Avoid "Overpacking" - Cold air must circulate around refrigerated foods to keep them properly chilled.
- Wipe Up Spills Immediately - In addition to helping reduce the growth of the Listeria bacteria (which can grow at refrigerated temperatures), getting rid of spills — especially drips from thawing meats — will help prevent "cross-contamination," where bacteria from one food spread to another.
- Keep It Covered - Store refrigerated foods in covered containers or sealed storage bags, and check leftovers daily for spoilage.
- Check Expiration Dates On Foods - If food is past its "use by" date, discard it. If you're not sure or if the food looks questionable, the simple rule is: "When in doubt, throw it out."
- Clean The Fridge Out Frequently - Make this task part of your kitchen cleaning routine!
Organization - All food products do not store equally well. It matters how and where you store food inside your refrigerator. A Google search on "stuffed refrigerator" brings up some frightening photos. Hopefully yours is not among them. Temperatures in your fridge can vary a few degrees from top to bottom. This article entitled "How to Organize Your Refrigerator Drawers and Shelves" shows you the best place in your fridge to store your every day items.
Below is a list of a few nasty smelly foods and some odor removing items to help keep their smell to a minimum.
- cooked broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts
- tuna fish
- various cheeses
- Backing soda
- Coffee grounds
- Activated charcoal
- Unscented chlorophyll cat litter
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