Fridge Storage for Food Safety
Although it may seem like a small part of food preparation, refrigeration plays a large role in keeping food safe. The temperature of the refrigerator, the order of the food on shelves, and the amount of time left in the refrigerator can all play a large role in the growth of bacteria or other harmful pathogens on the food.
Follow these three food storage rules to keep you and your customers safe.
1. Monitor the Temperature of the Refrigerator
To avoid your food reaching a temperature where pathogens can grow on your food, it’s important to measure the temperature of your refrigerator often. Keeping your refrigerator at 41°F (5°C) or below ensures an environment that will minimize the growth of pathogens.
Many refrigerators come with built in thermometers; if your fridge does not have this feature, an appliance thermometer should be kept in the fridge.
This can be very important, especially if there is a power outage. If when the power comes on, the refrigerator is still at 41°F or lower, the food is safe to consume. If the temperature of the refrigerator goes above 41°F, food should not be consumed as there is an increased risk of foodborne illness.
2. Arrange Food by Cooking Temperature
Although it may not seem like it would matter, the wrong order of food on shelves could potentially promote the growth of pathogens, increasing the risk of foodborne illness. Shelves should be ordered from lowest cooking temperature to highest, going down. This is done to prevent juices or other liquids from higher temperature cooking foods from contaminating foods that won’t reach that temperature.
Let’s break down what foods should be kept on each shelf.
Top Shelf: Ready-to-Eat
The top shelf should be reserved for ready-to-eat foods. These are foods that will be served without being cooked first.
Second Shelf: 135°F (57°C)
This category includes foods that will be hot-held that are not included in other categories.
Third Shelf: 145°F (63°C)
Foods that should be cooked to 145°F include whole seafood; whole cuts of beef, pork, veal, lamb; roasts; and eggs that will be served immediately.
Fourth Shelf: 155°F (68°C)
It is important that meat that has been ground, injected, or tenderized be kept on a lower shelf. This category also includes eggs that will be hot held.
Bottom Shelf: 165°F (74°C)
The bottom shelf should hold foods with the highest cooking temperatures. This includes all poultry (turkey, duck, chicken, or fowl); stuffing that contains foods that require temperature control; dishes with previously cooked foods, such as casseroles.