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April 19, 2010

Fridge Friendly Tips to Foil Food Borne Illness

How to use the fridge at work to stay healthy

For any business or organization with a work fridge, food borne illness is serious business! In fact, it can be very harmful to your health. If you've ever had cramps, fever, diarrhea, or vomiting, you've likely experienced food poisoning in one of its incarnations.

Listeria, E.coli and salmonella are just a few common sources of food borne illness, and can be present in your refrigerator at home or at work.

Scary bacteria facts

There are two types of bacteria: pathogenic - the kind that causes food borne illness; and spoilage - the kind that makes food smell and taste funny.

Pathogenic bacteria may grow when food isn't kept at a cold enough temperature. Generally, these bacteria do not change the way a food looks or smells or tastes. This means you could be eating a food with pathogenic bacteria and not even know it.

Spoilage organisms generally tend to destroy the texture and quality of a product. Spoilage organisms lead to food borne illness as well.  For example, mould on cheese can produce toxins, which can be a serious hazard if ingested.

Fridge Facts to Store Foods Safely

  • Follow label and storage instructions

  • Eat leftovers within 2 days.

  • Rice should be eaten within 1-2 days. (Read more: Keeping Foods Safe, Storage Charts, and Refrigeration and Food Safety.)

  • Don't eat or drink anything past its 'best before' date, even if it looks and smells fine.

  • Perishable food (such as cooked meat, pasta, vegetables, rice), should not sit at regular room temp for more than 2 hours. When the temperature of the room is warmer (such as on a warm summer day), food must be stored within one hour or less

  • Hot food can be placed into the fridge providing that it is:

    1. in small portions (one to two servings per container)

    2. covered (to prevent steam from escaping and warming the fridge environment)

    3. not touching any other foods (the heat will transfer and warm other foods)

  • Store perishable foods such as dairy products or lunch meat in the centre of the fridge. Note: shelves on the inside of the fridge door can sometimes be warmer than the interior of the fridge.

  • Turn the temperature to a colder level if the fridge is full (air needs to circulate to cool).

  • Keep the fridge door closed as much as possible.

How cold is cold enough?

Your fridge should be kept at 4°C or lower. A fridge thermometer will help show you if you're storing food at the right temperature.

What needs to go in the fridge?

  • Perishable food with a "best before" or "use by" date (e.g., dairy products, deli meat). Canned foods need to go into the refrigerator after they've been opened.

  • Cooked food (such as vegetables, pasta and meat).

  • Ready to eat food like pre-made salads (such as potato salad), and desserts such as cheese cake, cream-filled desserts, opened or home- made puddings).

  • Food labelled "refrigerate after opening" (make sure to check the label).

  • Doggie bags from lunch out.

  • Certain beverages (especially opened beverages, such as juice).

  • Food that can quickly spoil (e.g., raw fish, opened canned foods or creamy salads).

  • Anything prepared but don't intend to eat right away, like a sandwich or salad.

If a food isn't labelled with storage instructions, err on the safe side by putting it in the fridge.

If you open a can - of soup, for example - and don't eat the entire can, pour the remaining amount into a container and refrigerate.

How to prevent food borne illness in the workplace

  • Wash your hands before handling food.

  • Keep it cool. Get a fridge thermometer and ensure the temperature is 4ºC or lower.

  • Label your food with the name and date your food.

  • Keep the fridge clean. Clean your office fridge at least once a week and throw food out as appropriate.

  • Wipe up spills immediately.

  • In doubt? Throw it out.

How long should it be in the fridge?

You may be surprised to discover how long common foods really should be in the fridge.

CanFightBAC's Fridge Storage Chart

US Food and Drug Administration's Fridge Storage Chart

NDSU's Fish and Shellfish Fridge Storage Chart

Extension's Fridge Storage Chart

KSU's Fridge Storage Chart

Tuna and Salmon FAQ

About bag lunches

Keeping Bag Lunches Safe

Food Borne Illness

Listeria

Salmonella

Food Related Illness

Food Poisoning

Prevention Tips

Kitchen Companion

Clean

Separate

Cook

Chill

Handwashing

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