Stop germs growing by keeping them cold. Look out for a 'use by' date or 'keep refrigerated' on the label.


Your fridge is a weapon in the battle against germs, but it must be used effectively. 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.

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

Keeping food in the freezer

Freezing is a great way of storing food, keeping leftovers and cutting down waste. 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 - the 'Danger Zone'

It is important to remember that freezing food does not kill any harmful bacteria in food and that they may be revived as food defrosts. 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’.

Tips for Defrosting

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 other food.

Always clean surfaces, utensils, plates and hands thoroughly after they have touched raw or thawing meat to stop bacteria spreading around the kitchen.

You can freeze again once cooked- but you’ll only be able to reheat it once after that.

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.

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