Did you know: proper food storage can prevent foodborne illnesses? An estimated one in six Americans becomes sick each year from foodborne illnesses. Sometimes those illnesses happen due to improper food handling during preparation and cooking. Poor hand hygiene is another potential source of foodborne illnesses. However, many people don’t realize that improper food storage can cause foodborne illnesses. The reasoning and preventative steps are important in both restaurant/foodservice kitchens as well as home kitchens.
Here’s how: many people store food wherever they can find room. A little space on top? Great – put the chicken there. Middle shelf has some room? Tonight’s leftovers fit there. That’s where the problem lies. Raw meats, poultry and fish contain juices that are filled with bacteria. Even in a container, those juices have the potential to drip (it’s happened to all of us – something we thought was tightly sealed wasn’t, leaving the refrigerator quite messy). If you place the raw meat, fish and poultry on a top or even middle shelf, those juices have the potential to drip on anything below them. That means last night’s leftovers could get contaminated with bacteria such as E. coli and Salmonella. Those of course are two of the top bacteria that cause foodborne illnesses. The good news is that you can prevent this from happening by stocking your fridge in a certain way.
- Keep washed and packaged produce separate from raw, unwashed produce.
- Store prepared foods on the top shelf.
- Store raw meat, poultry and fish on the lowest shelf so they do not drip on other foods.
- Keep produce separate from raw meat, poultry and fish.
- Store food in sealed containers.
- Label those containers so you know what’s inside. You should also include the date of purchase/preparation on that label so you know when that food expires.
- Check your temperatures. Use a thermometer (one that isn’t built into your refrigerator) to ensure it stays at or below 40°F to avoid bacteria growth.