Your fridge is a weapon in the battle against germs, but it must be used effectively. Here are a few useful things to remember:
- Keep it between 0°C and 5°C
- Wait for food to cool down before you put it in the fridge
- If your fridge is full, turn the temperature down, but it is best to leave space as this allows air to circulate and maintain the set temperature
- Don’t leave the door open
- Eat leftovers within two days
- Put food back in the fridge as quickly as possible
- When you're eating outside at a barbecue or picnic, use a cool bag or cool box
- If you're putting out food for a party, don't leave it out for more than four hours
Under the microscope - Chilling
Some foods need to be kept in the fridge to help stop or slow down bacterial growth and keep them fresh and safe for longer. Generally, the colder the temperature the slower bacteria will grow, but cold temperatures don't always stop bacteria growing altogether.
Keeping food in the freezer
Freezing is a great way of storing food, keeping leftovers and cutting down waste. In theory, frozen food could be stored safely forever, but in truth food can change texture after a while and could become unpleasant to eat. Best to check food labels and your freezer guide just in case. For safety, it's ok to freeze most raw or cooked foods providing you do the following things:
- Freeze food before the 'use by' date
- Follow any freezing or thawing instructions on the label
- Thaw food in the fridge so that it doesn't get too warm
- Use food within one to two days after it’s been defrosted – it will go off in the same way as if it were fresh
Under the microscope - Freezing
Freezing food means that it is kept at very low temperatures (approx. -18 to -20°C) and has the effect of pausing bacteria. The low temperatures cause a delay in chemical reactions in food, which results in slowing down or causing bacteria to become dormant. The bacteria are still alive but they stop growing or producing toxins so in effect pausing reactions.
It is important to remember that any harmful bacteria present haven’t been killed and that they may be revived as food defrosts. This is why it is important that food does not enter the ‘Danger Zone’ because bacteria present may grow and make you ill. This is why you should defrost food in a fridge.
This is why we also advise that once food has been defrosted it should not be frozen again, unless it has been cooked first to make it safe. Once food has been defrosted it should be treated as fresh and eaten within two days.
Defrosting meat and fish can leave them in a puddle. This liquid could contain harmful bacteria so it’s best to keep it covered or in a sealed container at the bottom of the fridge so it can’t drip down onto it.
You can freeze again once cooked- but you’ll only be able to reheat it once after that.
Under the microscope – Defrosting
When defrosting meat it is safest to do this in the fridge because when food is above 8°C and below 63°C bacteria grow and multiply – this is known as the ‘Danger Zone’ for microbial growth. That’s why we advise that the safest way to defrost food is in the fridge overnight. By defrosting in the fridge, your food should never enter the ‘Danger Zone’.