How to prevent foodborne illness in four easy steps: Clean, Separate, Cook, and Chill.
At room temperature, harmful bacteria can grow rapidly in food. The more bacteria there are, the greater your chances of becoming sick. Cold temperatures keep most harmful bacteria from multiplying, so keep perishable foods (foods that can spoil or become contaminated by bacteria) in the refrigerator.
Prompt refrigeration of foods will help keep you and your family safe!
- Your refrigerator should register at 40° F (4° C) or below and the freezer unit at 0° F (-18° C). Place a refrigerator thermometer in the refrigerator, and check the temperature periodically.
- Refrigerate or freeze perishables, prepared food, and leftovers within two hours of eating or preparation.
- Use ready-to-eat, perishable foods, such as dairy, meat, poultry, seafood, and produce, as soon as possible.
- Hot food won't harm your refrigerator, so it's okay to place hot food inside. Be sure to divide large amounts of leftovers into shallow containers for quicker cooling in the refrigerator.
- Marinate foods in the refrigerator - not at room temperature.
Don't Pack Your Refrigerator...
- Don't pack the refrigerator too full with food. Cold air must circulate to keep food safe.
...But Be Sure to Pack Your Cooler
- At outdoor events, use a cooler to keep perishable foods cold. And, fill the cooler with food and ice or cold packs. A full cooler will maintain its cold temperatures longer than one that's partially filled.
Did You Know? 23% of consumers' refrigerators are not cold enough!
3 Ways to Defrost Frozen Foods
- In the refrigerator. Cold temperatures keep most harmful bacteria from multiplying.
- In cold water. Change the water every half-hour to keep the water cold.
- Using the microwave, but cook the food immediately after it's defrosted.
Note: Don't defrost foods at room temperature. Bacteria can grow in the "danger zone," the range of temperatures usually between 40° and 140° F (4° and 60° C).
Refrigerator & Freezer Storage Chart (available as PDF 21.2KB), which highlights the recommended storage times for foods.