Fridge Food Safety And Storage

Keep Your family Safe from Food Poisoning and Baterial Infections

As a passionate foodie, I have to say that one of my pet peeves is “untamed fridges.” By that, I mean if I find anything that happens to be green and fuzzy (and it’s not a kiwi fruit) in my fridge, then it means the fridge is out of control and needs a total overhaul.

It's important for people to remember the health of a fridge is their first and best defense for keeping their family safe from food borne illness. Our farmers use best practices to deliver fresh, safe foods and our grocers handle, store and care for our food with procedures put in place for our safety. Storing, handling and preparing food properly maintains its integrity so you'll have a pleasant eating experience and no nasty side effects.

As many moms will attest, running a household, taking care of children, cooking and working, while trying to preserve a smidgeon of down time, can be daunting. That’s why a “fridge management 101” review is sure to help.

Keeping a fridge tidy and clean may seem insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but follow these rules, and your lives will surely become easier whenever you or your family members open that fridge door:

  Check the temperature of your fridge – the temperature should be at or below 4˚C (40˚F).

  Freezers should be kept at, or below -18˚C (0˚F).

  Food safety is a number one concern. Store raw meat and seafood on the bottom shelf so that raw juices will not leak onto other foods in the fridge.

  As well, place raw meats and seafood in resealable freezer bags to prevent leakage or transfer directly from original packaging to labelled [date and content] freezer bags, so the original packaging does not come into contact with other foods and the surface of the fridge to prevent cross-contamination.

  Meat can be stored in the fridge for up to three days, following purchase. If you are not planning to use the meat within three days, use airtight wrap to prevent freezer burn and store in the freezer for up to six months.

  Keep eggs in their original cartons as well (not in the fridge door). This way, the temperature will be consistent and the expiry date of the eggs will remain intact, on the carton.

  Don’t overcrowd your fridge. If your fridge is overfilled, this will prevent the cold air from circulating and some sections of your fridge may not be cold enough or your fridge will over compensate and your fruit and veggies will freeze.

  At least once every two weeks, do a quick inventory to remove old/unused/expired items.

  There’s probably a good reason you have five jars of mustard in the fridge door – determine which ones never get used and toss them.

  Keep similar foods together – i.e. dairy products, condiments, juices, etc.

  Store veggies and fruit separately. Keep in mind that some fruits continue to ripen after harvest. During this process they naturally produce a gas called ethylene. Storing ethylene-producing fruit in the same crisper/drawer beside vegetables will make them limp, unappealing and enhance decay. Lettuce is especially sensitive to ethylene.

  Get to know your fruit! Some fruits should not be stored in the fridge when you first bring them home. For example, we all know about bananas but did you know watermelon should only be stored in the fridge after it has been sliced.

  Tomatoes should be stored on the counter, uncovered, out of direct sunlight. They should only be refrigerated in the fridge when they are well ripened, but know this will affect their flavour and texture. So avoid putting them in the fridge and enjoy tomatoes when they are at their prime; firm and dark red.

  Tree fruits such as nectarines and peaches if not ripe, should be stored at room temperature in a paper bag until they ripen, then stored in the fridge.

  Different fruits and vegetables need different temperatures and humidity levels. Fruit typically likes a cool dry environment and vegetables enjoy a little more humidity to maintain freshness. Just take a clue from your grocer - notice how vegetables are displayed on a spray table and fruit is displayed away from the sprayers on harvest tables.

  Eat leftovers within three to five days of making them. Store labelled [contents and date prepared] in airtight containers or resealable freezer bags.

  Remember food safety starts before you even get your food home. Wash your reusable shopping bags. Meat and seafood juices may have leaked onto the inside surface and will contaminate your vegetables and fruit if you happen to use that bag for them the next time. 

One of the keys to successful fridge management is sharing the “system” with the rest of the family. It’s never too early to train children (and never too late to train significant others). If you share your strategy with family members, you won’t find meat in the fruit drawer and cheese in the veggie drawer. One can only hope!

Virginia Zimm has more than 25 years in the food industry and is the president of Faye Clack Communications, Canada's only public relations agency that focuses solely on food. Ginny is the architect of the company’s growth and is personally connected to every facet of the organization. Whether it’s with the trade, the complex network of foreign and Canadian government agencies or the media, her drive, passion and intrinsic knowledge of the food and beverage industry from seed to table is unmatched.