Maintaining refrigerated foods at a low temperature helps firstly to slow the growth of microorganisms, thus reducing the occurrence of foodborne illness, and secondly to retain the nutritional qualities of food. The effectiveness of the cold chain depends not only on the refrigeration temperature but also on maintaining it at a constant level. Read all our tips for optimum use of your refrigerator.
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Updated on 05/08/2016
The refrigerator and food hygiene
Practical tips for everyone
The ideal temperature for food storage is between zero and +4°C at the coldest point. A temperature below 4°C dramatically slows the growth of microorganisms such as the Listeria monocytogenes bacterium, and halts the development of most pathogenic germs such as Salmonella enterica.
A refrigerator’s temperature should be monitored regularly, by placing a thermometer inside it, for example. In recent refrigerators (models on the market since 2002), this addition should not be necessary, however, because they have an indicator showing whether the temperature is indeed below 4°C at the coldest point.
Arrangement and storage
To ensure better food safety, raw meat and fish, home-made preparations containing animal products, particularly those containing raw eggs (mayonnaise, chocolate mousse) and meat preparations in sauce, should be placed in the coldest part of the fridge (below 4°C).
Remove the outer packaging of food (cardboard around yogurt pots, for example) to prevent the contamination of food and the refrigerator by microorganisms that may be found on such cardboard and plastic packaging. This also helps the circulation of cold air.
It is not advisable to overload the refrigerator.
Protect partially consumed food with plastic food wrap, airtight containers, etc. to avoid contamination.
Avoid placing hot food in the refrigerator. Heat causes condensation, which increases the temperature in the refrigerator. However, you should not wait more than 2 hours before refrigerating food. Indeed, after cooking, certain culinary preparations may contain spores (Clostridium perfringens) that can germinate and produce toxins at room temperature.
Maintenance: practical information
To maintain a hygienic refrigerator, it is necessary to clean it whenever it becomes dirty, but also on a regular basis, for example with soapy water followed by rinsing with water to which a small amount of bleach has been added. Avoid direct application of concentrated bleach to the surfaces, as this may attack the surface and cause cracks that facilitate the establishment of microorganisms.
If you use a sponge, disinfect it first with chlorinated water or heat. This cleaning tool may harbour a great many bacteria, which then risk spreading to the fridge surfaces.
Defrost your refrigerator regularly. This should also be done immediately if a layer of ice forms unusually fast.
Ensure that the door is closed properly
The permanent presence of condensation is a phenomenon associated with failing to close the refrigerator door properly. Such condensation can cause runoff that can contaminate unwrapped food. You should also avoid opening the fridge door too frequently and leaving it open for a prolonged period.