One of the most popular articles I’ve written as a consumer journalist was about food storage.
I invited an inspector from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to examine my family’s cupboards and refrigerator. He then told me what we were doing right and what needed improvement.
My column appeared in The Spokesman (Spokane, Wash.) Review. People talked about it for months. They especially mentioned the refrigerator. I’d had some vegetables from the garden that were dried up and inedible. The newspaper held the article for several months so people thought I’d had the old vegetables in my refrigerator all winter.
Now most people either sort it out weekly and wipe up the spills, let it go until company comes and more room is needed, or deal with the bad stuff when it’s spoiled.
A thorough cleaning – defined as emptying out the fridge, cleaning out the interior surfaces, removing the bins and shelves, and washing and drying them – is needed twice a month, recommends Washington State University Extension.
Doing a thorough cleaning twice a month reduces the risk of microbial contamination. The areas showing greatest levels of contamination are the fruit and vegetable bins, the bottom shelf, and the meat bin.
Recent research conducted by Tennessee State University, Kansas State University, and RTI International found that consumers don’t realize that their own refrigerators can contribute to an increased potential for food borne illness occurring in their own home.
WSU Extension also suggests that consumers buy a refrigerator thermometer to they can make sure that the temperature of the refrigerator is below 40 degrees. This prevents microorganisms from rapidly growing and multiplying.