Refrigerator Tips: Keep Your Family Safe and Your Food Fresh
According to the United States Food and Drug Administration and the United States Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection Service, refrigerating food at 40 degrees F or below is one of the most effective ways to reduce the risk of foodborne illness. Studies suggest listeriosis could be reduced by 70% if refrigerator temperatures are less than 40 degrees F. However, University of Tennessee researchers found only 9% of consumers have a refrigerator thermometer.
How to check your refrigerator temperature
- Use a refrigerator thermometer to check that the air temperature in the refrigerator is at 35 to 38 degrees F and the freezer is at 0 degrees F or below. The temperature of the food in your refrigerator should be 40 degrees F or lower, as measured with a food thermometer.
- Place the thermometer in the warmest part of the refrigerator. After 24 hours, check the thermometer. If the thermometer reads above 40 degrees F, adjust the control dial according to the manufacturer's instructions.
- Times when your refrigerator thermometer might read higher than 40 degrees F:
- Overfilling the refrigerator more than 3/4 full
- Initial placement of the thermometer inside the refrigerator
- Refrigerator door opened for an extended period of time
- Hot foods recently placed in the refrigerator
- The refrigerator's automatic defrost cycle
Safe refrigerator tips
- Store raw meat, poultry and seafood on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator in pans so juices don't drip onto other foods.
- Check refrigerator temperature often, daily or at least once a week
- Refrigerate prepared food and leftovers within two hours of cooking.
- Divide leftovers into small, shallow containers for quick cooling in the refrigerator. Cover when food is cooled.
- Don't overload the refrigerator. Cool air must circulate to keep food safe.
Food Safety Hotlines
- USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline answers your questions by phone or email.
Phone: 1-888-MPHOTLINE (1-888-674-6854) from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. (CST) weekdays, email questions MPHotline.email@example.com; website: www.fsis.usda.gov.
- FDA's Food Safety Information Hotline: 1-888-SAFEFOOD (1-888-723-3366) 24 hour recording.
- AnswerLine - 1-800-854-1678 (in Minnesota) 1-800-262-3804 (in Iowa) - Call to talk directly to an Extension home economist for answers on food safety and other household topics. Hours are Monday through Friday from 9:00 – noon and 1:00 – 4:00 p.m. A service of University of Minnesota Extension and Iowa State Extension. firstname.lastname@example.org.
- 40 or below - Home Food Safety Myths and Facts webinar. September 2, 2015. Food Safety Partnership webinar.
- Consumer Refrigeration Practices and Spreading the CHILL Message. July 17, 2015. Food Safety Partnership webinar.
Revised by Suzanne Driessen 2016