Spring is here! Use USDA’s new food preparedness graphic to clean out your fridge

Spring cleaning is about more than just cleaning out your closets. It’s also a good time to clean out your refrigerator, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The Get Ready team spoke with USDA public affairs specialist Kristina Beaugh, MPH, on how you can make sure the food in your fridge is safe. Beaugh is part of USDA’s food safety education staff.

USDA has a new refrigerator food safety infographic. What does it say about the importance of an organized refrigerator?
With the start of spring, many people will be looking to clean and organize the house from top to bottom. It’s important to remember your refrigerator during your spring cleaning regimen. Keeping your refrigerator clean and organized helps to reduce your risk of foodborne illness and can also minimize the amount of food that spoils. USDA’s “Your Fridge + Food Safety” infographic is a great tool to keep handy while you’re cleaning. It goes over everything from temperature and storage to how to keep your fridge clean and fresh.

Step-by-step, take us through the process of turning an unsafe, messy fridge to an organized, safe, risk-free one.
The first step is to make sure your refrigerator is set to the right temperature. Refrigeration slows bacterial growth on your food, so it’s important to keep your fridge and freezer at a temperature that will keep your food safe and help it to stay fresher longer. Your refrigerator should be set to 40° F or below, and your freezer should be set to 0° F or below. You can measure your fridge’s internal temperature with an appliance thermometer.

Next, it’s time to store the food. Did you know that where you store certain foods could have an effect on their safety and freshness? It’s true! Here are some helpful guidelines:

  • Raw meat and poultry should be stored in a sealed container or securely wrapped on a plate to prevent juices from contaminating other foods.
  • Sealed crisper drawers provide an ideal storage environment for fruits and vegetables. Some refrigerators may allow you to customize each drawer’s humidity level. If so, vegetables require higher humidity, while fruits require lower humidity.
  • Never store perishable foods in the door. The temperature of doors changes frequently. Instead, use the doors to store things like juice, water and condiments.
  • Perishable foods like eggs, dairy and raw meat and poultry should be stored on shelves in the main compartment where the temperature is more stable.
  • Food stored in the freezer is safe indefinitely. Although quality may suffer with lengthy storage, frozen food is safe forever.
If you’re ever left wondering how long different foods last in the fridge and freezer, don’t worry — you’re not alone. A general rule of thumb for refrigerator storage is three to four days for cooked foods, one to two days for poultry and ground meat and up to five days for whole cuts of meat. For storage information on more than 400 foods and beverages, download the FoodKeeper app. It’s free and it’s available for Apple and Android products.

And finally, keeping your refrigerator clean isn’t necessarily the last step, but rather a step you should remember all year long. Wipe up spills immediately, and clean surfaces thoroughly with hot, soapy water. Sanitize your refrigerator with a diluted bleach solution — one tablespoon unscented bleach to one gallon of water. To keep your refrigerator smelling fresh and to help eliminate odors, place an opened box of baking soda on a shelf.

Where can readers find out more?
If you have additional questions about food safety or organizing your fridge, you can call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-674-6854. Or chat live with a food safety specialist at AskKaren.gov from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Eastern time Monday through Friday, in English or Spanish.

USDA’s “Your Fridge + Food Safety” infographic

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