What food storage tips can help prevent foodborne illness?
- The first rule of food storage in the home is to refrigerate or freeze perishables right away. The refrigerator temperature should be 40 degrees Fahrenheit (5 degrees Celsius), and the freezer should be zero F (minus 18 C).
- Check both "fridge" and freezer periodically with a refrigerator/freezer thermometer.
- Poultry and meat heading for the refrigerator may be stored as purchased in the plastic wrap for a day or two. If only part of the meat or poultry is going to be used right away, it can be wrapped loosely for refrigerator storage.
- Just make sure juices can't escape to contaminate other foods.
Wrap tightly foods destined for the freezer. Leftovers should be stored in tight containers.
- Store eggs in their carton in the refrigerator itself rather than on the door, where the temperature is warmer.
- Seafood should always be kept in the refrigerator or freezer until preparation time.
- Don't crowd the refrigerator or freezer so tightly that air can't circulate.
- Check the leftovers in covered dishes and storage bags daily for spoilage. Anything that looks or smells suspicious should be thrown out.
- A sure sign of spoilage is the presence of mold, which can grow even under refrigeration. While not a major health threat, mold can make food unappetizing. Most moldy foods should be thrown out. But you might be able to save molding hard cheeses, salami, and firm fruits and vegetables if you cut out not only the mold but a large area around it. Cutting the larger area around the mold is important because much of the mold growth is below the surface of the food.
- Always check the labels on cans or jars to determine how the contents should be stored. Many items besides fresh meats, vegetables, and dairy products need to be kept cold. For instance, mayonnaise and ketchup should go in the refrigerator after opening. If you've neglected to refrigerate items, it's usually best to throw them out.
- Some precautions will help make sure that foods that can be stored at room temperature remain safe. Potatoes and onions should not be stored under the sink because leakage from the pipes can damage the food.
- Potatoes don't belong in the refrigerator, either. Store them in a cool, dry place.
- Don't store foods near household cleaning products and chemicals.
- Check canned goods to see whether any are sticky on the outside. This may indicate a leak. Newly purchased cans that appear to be leaking should be returned to the store, which should notify the ADFCA.