Storing your food properly is very important. If you wait too long to put your food in the refrigerator or you don’t keep your refrigerator at the right temperature you could become seriously ill after eating food that has spoiled. Even if your food looks and smells just fine there could still be harmful bacteria building up and you wouldn’t know about it until you are experiencing the symptoms of food poisoning.
In most cases food poisoning will go away on its own but it is still pleasant to experience the vomiting and diarrhea caused by ingesting things that are contaminated with E. coli or salmonella. There is also a chance that a more serious case of food poisoning would not just go away on its own and approximately 325,000 people are hospitalized every year in the United States because of food poisoning.
Some Tips on Proper Refrigeration
One tip is known as the “two-hour rule”. Any food item that needs to be refrigerated should never be left at room temperature for longer than two hours. These types of food would include meats, poultry, eggs, seafood etc. It’s okay to put warm or hot items directly into the refrigerator or freezer. If you think that you need to let something cool off before you put it into the refrigerator it could accidentally get left out longer than that two-hour window, putting you at risk of food poisoning.
Proper Temperature Settings
You should set the temperature of your refrigerator at or below 40°F. Your freezer should be set to 0°F or below. If there is not a readout on your refrigerator that tells you what the temperature is you can place a thermometer in the refrigerator and come back later to check the temperature.
Knowing When to Get Rid of Something
It’s also important to know when to get rid of food items that have been in the refrigerator for to long. And unopened package of luncheon meat for example will keep for up to two weeks but once it is opened it should be used within 3 to 5 days or it should be thrown away. The 3 to 5 day rule can also be applied to cooked poultry, pork chops, steaks and other meats. Raw ground meat should be used within two days. A more complete list of food items and how long they can be stored both in the refrigerator and the freezer can be found here:
Some Additional Tips
Where you put your food in the refrigerator can also be very important. Any raw food item that must be cooked before eating should be stored in the bottom of the refrigerator. This will prevent any of the juices from coming into contact with, and contaminating other food items.
Another important tip is that it is never a good idea to store uncooked potatoes, onions or winter squash in the refrigerator. The starches in these items will convert to sugar. These types of food items can be stored in a cool, dark place at 45 to 50°F which is slightly above the ideal temperature for your refrigerator.
One final rule to follow is, when in doubt, throw it out. We all hate to waste money but gambling with your health is never a good idea. If there is even the slightest chance that eating something could make you sick you should err on the side of caution throw it away.