Food Safety Tips for the Refrigerator

Don’t let cross contamination take over your fridge! Cross-contamination is how bacteria can spread. It occurs when juices from raw meats or germs from unclean objects touch cooked or ready-to-eat foods.

Remember also to keep your refrigerator at the proper temperature. Keep the temperature at or below 40° F (4° C). The freezer temperature should be 0° F (-18° C). Check temperatures periodically. Appliance thermometers are the best way of knowing these temperatures and are generally inexpensive.

Preventing cross-contamination is a key factor in preventing foodborne illness. By following a few simple steps as you handle, store, shop and cook foods, you can greatly reduce your risk of food illness.

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Shopping for Food

At the grocery store, separate fresh or frozen, raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs from produce and ready-to-eat foods in your shopping cart and grocery bags.

  • If you are using reusable grocery totes to transport groceries, place meat, poultry and seafood in plastic bags to prevent juices from leaking.
  • Place groceries in the back seat instead of the trunk of a vehicle.

Storing Food

When storing food, refrigerate or freeze groceries within two hours.

  • Keep raw meat, poultry and seafood on bottom shelf of refrigerator in a sealed container or plastic bag to ensure juices don’t drip onto ready-to-eat foods and cause contamination.
  • Keep eggs in original carton and store on shelves of refrigerator — not in the door.
  • Store reusable totes in a clean, dry location and wash frequently with hot, soapy water or in the washing machine. Avoid leaving reusable totes in the trunk of a vehicle.

Preparing Food

Special precautions should be taken when preparing food. Wash hands thoroughly with warm, soapy water for 20 seconds before, during and after handling raw meats and foods.

  • Wash plates between uses or use separate plates: one for holding raw meat, poultry or seafood and another for cooked foods.
  • Place washed produce into clean storage containers, not back into the original ones.
  • Be aware of the tools used during cooking — never use the same knife for raw meat, poultry or seafood to chop produce or ready-to-eat foods.
  • Use one cutting board for meat, poultry and seafood, and a separate cutting board for produce and ready-to-eat foods.

Further Resources