The most important appliance for food safety is the refrigerator. In busy households, it's easy to forget to monitor basic equipment for problems until they break down completely. Try the following:
- Check the fridge's internal temperature: it should be a maximum of 40 degrees F--preferably cooler. Freezers should be kept at 0 degrees F and below. Temperatures below 40 degrees F will slow bacterial growth, while temps above 140 degrees will kill bacteria, although it won't destroy any residual toxins.
- Don't over-stuff your fridge--proper air circulation is imperative to keep products cool.
- Practice the food rotation system “FIFO”--First In, First Out. Use up older products first before opening new packages.
- Avoid using chemical cleaning solutions inside the fridge. Instead, use warm water mixed with lemon juice or white vinegar for a radiant and chemical-free shine.
- Once a week, do a clean sweep of the fridge: check produce and other perishables, and throw out any items past their prime or expiration date. Scheduling your cleaning for the day before garbage pick-up is ideal.
- Remove odors with a lemon juice-sprinkled sponge.
- Keep an open box of good old-fashioned baking soda in the refrigerator and another one in the freezer to absorb odors.