You regularly wipe down the countertops in your kitchen, but how often do you actually clean your refrigerator?  Perhaps you have leftovers that you’ve forgotten about. Or maybe something spilled that you’ve chosen to ignore.  Whatever the blunder, it’s time to direct your attention to your fridge and make sure it’s not making you sick.

The following are the key components of keeping a responsible refrigerator!

Keeping Food Cold Enough

Hot foods should be refrigerated promptly to 40° F or below after preparation.  That means your refrigerator needs to be set to that temperature.  The only way to make sure that your fridge is cold enough is to use a refrigerator thermometer.  Set the thermometer in the center of the middle shelf (not on the door) and keep it in the fridge at all times.  Lastly, check the temperature on a regular basis to make sure your food is safely below 40° F.

Manage Leftovers

Most perishable foods will last 3-5 days.  If you do a lot of cooking on Sundays (like I do) you will need a way to track how old each item is.  Labeling items with the date makes this easy.  Remember, when in doubt, throw it out!

Storage

Where you store items in the refrigerator makes a difference.  Don’t store perishable foods on the door.  Keep eggs stored in the carton on a shelf.  Many fruits and vegetables do the best in the coldest area of the refrigerator.  These fruits and vegetables store best with humidity above 95 percent, and the crisper drawer is an adjustable climate storage location.

Safe Cleaning

Even though you may not see them, things may have spilled in your refrigerator.  It’s important to get these spills cleaned up quickly, even if you don’t feel like they pose a health risk.  Avoid using solvent cleaning agents, abrasives and all cleaners that may impart a chemical taste to food or ice cubes or cause damage to the interior finish of your refrigerator. Use a soft towel and mild liquid dishwashing detergent on the exterior part of the fridge.  Cleaners and polishers are also available to shine the exterior.

Lastly, the USDA recommends placing an opened box of baking soda on a shelf to keep the refrigerator smelling fresh and help eliminate odors.

For more information on home food safety visit http://www.homefoodsafety.org/

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