Don’t forget the fridge when spring cleaning

By Jessica Peterson

food expirationThe days of spring cleaning are upon us. After vacuuming out your vehicle and deep cleaning the house, pay your refrigerator some much needed attention as well.

If your grocer has done their job, the food you bring home is in great condition and ready for consumption. Now it’s your job to preserve it for your family.

Before you put groceries away, check the tem- perature of your refrigerator and freezer. Your refrigerator should be set for 40 degrees Fahrenheit (5 degrees Celsius); your freezer should be set to 0 degrees Fahrenheit (-18 degrees Celsius) or lower. These temps will help

keep any bacteria in food from multiplying. If your refrigerator doesn’t have a thermostat, invest in a thermometer.

Next, label items with an expiration date. Once an item is open, its “sell by” date is no longer valid. Use a dark marker and label packaging with a visible expiration date. This is especially important for leftovers. Without labels, you must rely on your mental clock to know how long an item has been in the fridge. Is it worth the gamble?

Check for old or expired food. If in doubt about an item, use common sense. It’s never OK to just eyeball an item for mold or other visible signs of deterioration. In reality there are two different types of bacteria that play a role in the breakdown of foods – spoilage bacteria and pathogenic bacteria.

Spoilage bacteria grow at refrigeration temps and take the form of mold. While unappetizing, these are not very dangerous if consumed. Pathogenic bacteria, on the other hand, are unrecognizable to the eye and nose and cause the greatest harm if consumed.

Jessica Peterson is a health educator with Douglas County Public Health.

 

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