Is Your Dirty Fridge Dangerous?

  • Is Your Fridge Out of Sight, Out of Mind?

    Even if you tend to keep a clean kitchen, not being vigilant about cleaning the shelves, doors and drawers in your refrigerator could make it a source of potentially sickening substances. Studies have shown, according to The Wall Street Journal that many consumers don’t even think about how to organize a fridge when putting away groceries, rarely even clean them and sometimes continue to use food that’s well past its prime. All of that could mean that you and your family are unwittingly ingesting bacteria. Here are some bad habits that you may just be guilty of, and how to remedy them to make your fridge – and your home - more healthy and safe. Photo Credit: Pete Barr-Watson
    Cleaning Stats
  • Cleaning Stats

    It may be more pleasant not to think about it, but juices and sticky substances lingering in your fridge could be getting into your fresh food. About a third of consumers don’t clean their fridge before filling it with more groceries, according to a survey of 2,571 by home appliance maker Whirlpool, The Wall Street Journal reports. That could make your fresh foods go bad more quicky, so if you see or feel something moldy, gooey or sticky, wipe it up! Photo Credit: xJasonRogersx
  • Organization

    How your fridge is organized can be key to food safety since temperatures can vary in different areas. Yet 27% of consumers surveyed reported randomly putting groceries wherever they’d fit in the fridge, the Whirlpool report found. Refrigerator-maker Sub-Zero observed customers habits when putting away chilled items and also saw some potentially nasty habits, the Journal adds. Photo Credit: chispita_666
    The Crisper
  • The Crisper

    As one might assume, the crisper drawers in your fridge are meant for fruits and vegetables. Temperature and humidity are actually regulated in these drawers to keep produce fresher longer, yet Sub-Zero observations found that some people tend to put meat and soda cans in the crisper drawers. Photo Credit: miheco
    The Doors
  • The Doors

    Refrigerator doors aren’t a good place to put your milk, even though it fits there perfectly. The door is the warmest place in your fridge according to food safety officials, and if left in the door, your milk may spoil faster and could attract bacteria which can grow quickly if it’s not colder than 40 degrees Fahrenheit, the Journal reports. Eggs shouldn’t be stored in the door either. Photo Credit: Lars Plougmann
  • Temperature

    The temperature of your fridge should always be below 40 degrees. Bacteria can grow rapidly on food stored between 40 degrees and 140 degrees, a so-called danger zone, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service. The agency suggests buying a thermometer, and keeping it in the warmest area of your fridge. Photo Credit: Olibac
    An Overflowing Fridge
  • An Overflowing Fridge

    Even if you’re not a food hoarder, having too much food in the fridge can lead to food safety concerns. If a fridge is too packed, there may not be enough cold air circulating to keep your food at a safe temperature. Photo Credit: revjim5000
    How Often You Should Clean
  • How Often You Should Clean

    Refrigerators should be checked for spoiled food at least once a week, according to The Wall Street Journal. Shelves and drawers can be cleaned one at a time and the dirtiest part of the fridge, below the bottom drawers, should be thoroughly cleaned as well, the Journal says. Photo Credit: AlishaV
    How to Clean
  • How to Clean

    You may want to schedule your next fridge cleaning for the day before you go grocery shopping so that you don’t have to take out and leave out chilled items for too long. Take out everything in your fridge and throw out anything moldy or old, especially if an expiration date has long since passed, suggests Next, scrub down all the removable parts like shelves and drawers as well as all of the inside and outside surfaces, especially door handles. Photo Credit: s2art
    Cleaning Chemicals
  • Cleaning Chemicals

    The plastic parts inside your refrigerator may be damaged with hot water, bleach or other household cleaners, so check the manual that came with your fridge. If you don’t have it anymore, you may be able to find one online on the manufacturer’s Web site. If you can’t get the manual, also suggests using warm water and mild soap to wipe down shelves and drawers, then rinse them with warm water and dry them with a cloth. Photo Credit: Photomish Dan
    Bacteria Killers
  • Bacteria Killers

    High-end kitchen appliance maker Viking sells a fridge that has a Sharp Electronics Plasmacluster Ion Air Purifier built in. It runs for between $6,600 to $8,800, according to the Journal. The purifier helps break down bacteria, mold and mildew, and it kills about 99% of the bacteria in your fridge. Photo Credit: robylab
    Fighting the Funk
  • Fighting the Funk

    To absorb any funky smells, open a box of baking soda and put it in the middle of your fridge. Some scientists say that activated charcoal is more effective than baking soda, however, so if you tend to keep especially stinky foods, like cheeses, in your fridge, the charcoal might be a better option for you. Photo Credit: Photo Credit: psyberartist
    Packing Guidelines
  • Packing Guidelines

    For optimal fridge food safety, high-end appliance maker Sub-Zero has been including instructional cards showing the areas of the fridge from the coldest to the least cool, advising how long food can be stored in the different areas and how long it might take to ripen, the Journal says. Otherwise, arranging food in the the fridge in a better way could actually lead to healthier eating habits. For instance, if you put healthy foods right within view and less healthy foods further to the back, you might be more likely to eat the stuff that’s good for you, according to Photo Credit: Thirteen of Clubs
  • Meat

    Not surprisingly, fresh lunch meats and cheeses should go in the deli meat drawer and raw meat should generally be kept on the bottom shelf since juices can drip from their packaging and could end up on fruits and vegetables, or other products that you may not heat up, the Journal says. Remember, E. coli could be present in meat even if you don’t get sick from it since it’s killed when meat is properly cooked. Drip trays, drawers, shelves and the bottom of your fridge should be cleaned regularly. Photo Credit: mulmat sherm
  • Vegetables

    Vegetables should be kept in the crisper.  You may forget that you have veggies in the fridge if you keep them in a crisper drawer, especially if it’s not transparent, but if you clean out your fridge on a regular basis, you’ll be less likely to forget about what you have in there. Photo Credit: psyberartist
    National Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day
  • National Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day

    Americans clean out their refrigerators so rarely that there’s a designated National Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day.  Several Web sites have taken the day as an opportunity to post pictures of some of the worst-kept fridges, but we hope that these help convince consumers to start cleaning them out regularly, and by that we don’t mean once a year. Photo Credit: madmolecule
    Growing Mold
  • Growing Mold

    “Molds have branches and roots that are like very thin threads. The roots may be difficult to see when the mold is growing on food and may be very deep in the food,” says the USDA. And fresh foods don’t need to be touching moldy foods for the mold to be spread to them.  When spores are dry, they become airborne in order to reach the nearest and best conditions, according to the USDA. Photo Credit: Photo Credit: psyberartist
  • Condiments

    Condiments generally aren’t meant to last in the fridge for years.  In fact, “most will stay fresh for two months on the door of the refrigerator,” according to The refrigerator door is an appropriate place to store condiments, since the acids they tend to contain help them resist contamination by bacteria, but for the best quality, the site suggests using them within a few months. Photo Credit: Ollie Crafoord
    HAZMAT-Caliber Hazards
  • HAZMAT-Caliber Hazards

    Office refrigerators can be the most offensive and the most hazardous to your health, especially if no one is designated to clean it every now and then. Last year, one San Jose, Calif. office fridge containing rotting food was so noxious that it sent seven office workers to the hospital with nausea and vomiting, according to reports from local television station KTVU.  It was so bad that a HAZMAT team was called to evacuate 325 people from the office building. Photo Credit: Pierre Lascott
    Power Loss
  • Power Loss

    The HAZMAT fridge incident appears to have been caused by the stuffed refrigerator being unplugged for too long, causing the food to decompose. If the power in your home goes out, or your fridge is accidentally unplugged, your food can be kept safely for about four hours if it’s not opened, according to the USDA.  If it’s opened, cool air will escape and raise the temperature inside the fridge. Food in a full freezer can last about 48 hours if unopened, the USDA says. Photo Credit: climbing crystal
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