Thursday, October 29, 2009

Refrigerator Temperatures are Important for Food Safety

By David Burton
University Extension

To assure food safety, a refrigerator should maintain temperatures at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit according to Tammy Roberts, nutrition and health education specialist, University of Missouri Extension.
“The danger zone in which illness-causing bacteria can grow and multiply is 40 degrees to 140 degrees. The closer temperatures are to the middle of that range, the faster bacteria grow and multiply,” said Roberts.
Bacteria can still multiply at 40 degrees (just at a very slow rate).
“That is one reason why it is recommended you use or throw out leftover food within four days of preparation. Raw poultry and ground meat should be used in one or two days,” said Roberts.
The best way to make sure a refrigerator is at or below 40 degrees is by using a refrigerator or appliance thermometer.
To check the temperature in a refrigerator, place the appliance thermometer (which can be purchased at hardware and some grocery stores) in a glass of water in the middle of the refrigerator and wait five to eight hours.
“If the temperature is not 38 to 40 degrees after 5 to 8 hours, adjust the temperature control and then check again,” said Roberts.
After the refrigerator temperature has been adjusted, the thermometer can be removed from the water and stored on the rack in the middle of the refrigerator.
According to Roberts, a clean refrigerator works more efficiently than a dirty one.
Drips and spills should be cleaned immediately. Surfaces should be cleaned with hot, soapy water and then rinsed.
The front grill of the refrigerator should be kept free from dust. This allows air to flow freely to the condenser. The condenser should be cleaned with a brush or vacuum cleaner several times a year for better efficiency.
“Once you clean the refrigerator set it at 40 degrees or below. By doing this you are assuring the safety of food for your family. Energy conservation is an added benefit of keeping the parts clean,” said Roberts.

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