Is Your Refrigerator a Danger to Your Health?
By Sara Butler
Each year in the United States, 48 million people fall ill due to foodborne disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, many of the things that make you sick are already in food when you bring it home. If you put it in your refrigerator under less than ideal conditions, then those pathogens can multiply and make you sick. The good news is that getting sick from the food you eat is preventable if you can identify the mistakes you may be making with your refrigerator that might make you sick.
The Wrong Temperature
Would you believe that many homes have their refrigerator set at the wrong temperature? The Partnership for Food Safety Education states that 40 degrees Fahrenheit is the ideal temperature for your fridge. If it’s set even just a few degrees above that, then you are not providing an environment for your food that kills bacteria but instead helps it to multiply. Try keeping a separate thermometer in your refrigerator to make sure it’s at the right temperature, especially if you have an older fridge that doesn’t display temperature.
Long Lost Leftovers
Everyone wants to avoid food waste, but how many times have you looked in the back of your refrigerator and found something that used to resemble Chinese takeout? Long lost leftovers can be a danger to your health because the longer they linger in the fridge, the bigger the chance that they’ll grow something that can contaminate other things and make you sick. Any leftovers from the homemade food you make should be thrown out or frozen. If you don’t eat leftovers from a restaurant within two days, then toss them!
Opened Food Packages
Once the wrapper comes off a food and it’s placed back in your refrigerator, the best by date on the package no longer applies. Once that package is open up, it’s fair game for bacteria to invade and multiply. So, be wary of lunch meat, salads, and uncooked meat you bring home. They should be eaten within five days of being opened to avoid the chance you could get sick. Any cooked poultry or meat should be eaten within four days. Condiments usually have a lot of preservatives, so they’ll last for a while.
Staying healthy is about more than what you put in your refrigerator -- it's also important to know how to keep a healthy environment in your refrigerator.
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