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 at the right temperature (between 0°C and 5°C)
- keep the fridge door closed as much as possible
- wait for food to cool down before you put it in the fridge
- if your fridge is full, turn the temperature down to help it fight germs, but it is best to leave space as this allows air to circulate and maintain the set temperature
- some germs can still grow at cold temperatures, so eat leftovers within two days
- keep food out of the fridge for the shortest time you can
- 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, try not to leave it out for more than four hours; otherwise germs might have a party of their own!
Keeping food in the freezer
The freezer is a great tool for making sure you’ve always got some food in stock and for helping to avoid wasting food.
You can keep food safely in the freezer for years, in theory, as long as it has stayed frozen the whole time. However, the taste and texture of food changes if it’s frozen for too long, so you might well find that it’s not very nice to eat. You can check any instructions on food labels or in your freezer’s handbook (if you don’t have this anymore, you might be able to find it online) to see how long food should be frozen.
For safety, it's ok to freeze most raw or cooked foods providing you do the following things:
- freeze it before the 'use by' date
- follow any freezing or thawing instructions on the label
- thaw it in the fridge so that it doesn't get too warm. Or, if you intend to cook it as soon as it's defrosted, you could defrost it in a microwave
- 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
- cook food until it's steaming hot all the way through or reaches a core temperature of 75°C
When frozen meat and fish (and some other foods) thaw, lots of liquid can come out of them. If you’re defrosting raw meat or fish, this liquid will spread bacteria to any food, plates or surfaces that it touches. Keep the meat and fish in a sealed container at the bottom of the fridge, so that it can't touch or drip onto other foods.
Always clean plates, utensils, surfaces and hands thoroughly, after they have touched raw or thawing meat, to stop bacteria from spreading.
If you defrost raw meat or fish and then cook it thoroughly, you can freeze it again, but remember never reheat foods more than once.