Does Refrigeration Prevent Bacterial Growth in Food?
Everyone runs into a conundrum every once in a while—has the food been sitting out too long, and will refrigerating it help stem the growth of bacteria? Bacteria are present in everything, and it's impossible to completely avoid them. While some bacteria are helpful to humans, other varieties are harmful.
The best way to avoid bacterial growth on food is to follow proper food-handling instructions: Keep meat cold, wash your hands and any surface that comes in contact with raw meat, never place cooked meat on a platter that held raw meat, and cook food to safe internal temperatures. Additionally, food should be put in the refrigerator within one to two hours of being cooked.
Effect of Refrigeration on Bacteria
Bacteria grow best at temperatures between 40 degrees F and 140 degrees F, multiplying very rapidly at those temperatures in ideal strata—that is, in perishable foods like meat and dairy products. That's why it's so important to keep perishable foods refrigerated at temperatures below 40 degrees F.
At a refrigerator's temperatures—that is, 32 degrees F to 40 degrees F—bacteria can still grow, but that growth is slowed dramatically. It prolongs how long the food is good for, though it doesn't stop bacterial growth entirely—that's why you must use raw perishable food within a certain time frame, usually 3 to 4 days, even when it is properly refrigerated. If you think that you won't eat the leftovers within the proper timeframe, consider freezing the food. Follow these timeframe guidelines