Food Safety Facts

  • Every year, about 76 million Americans develop food poisoning from restaurants, the home, and elsewhere, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • Pathogenic bacteria such as salmonella and E. coli, which are known to cause food-borne illnesses, can grow at 40 – 140° F, so keep an eye on your fridge temperature, says the International Food Information Council.
  • The produce bin is the area of the refrigerator most likely to contain pathogenic bacteria, says the American Dietetic Association. Spinach, lettuce, sprouts, and other produce may have been exposed to contaminated soil or irrigation water.

Ever found moldy strawberries, “off” milk, or dry, unappetizing leftovers lurking in the fridge?

You could be incubating mold, yeast, and bacteria that cause food to lose texture, flavor, and nutritional value. Poor refrigeration can also make food unsafe to eat. The following suggestions will keep your food fresh, flavorful, and safe in any refrigerator, high-tech or humble.


Storage at 40°F or lower slows the growth of bacteria, mold, and yeast. A refrigerator/freezer thermometer is a must in order to be sure your food is kept at a safe temperature. 

Why does refrigeration reduce the rate at which food deteriorates?   As the website Food Science Australia explains, “Low temperatures slow down the growth of microorganisms and the rate of chemical (including enzymatic) changes in food.  These are the two main causes of food spoilage.”


Susan Brewer, Ph.D,, University of Illinois, Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition

eHow: How to Do Just About Everything  “How to Store Fruit in a Refrigerator” 

USDA Fact Sheets Safe Food Handling   Refrigeration and Food Safety

USDA Factsheet: “Molds on Food”

University of Hawaii and USDA factsheet: “Store it. Don’t Ignore it!”

USDA Handbook: “Kitchen Companion”

The Today show website: “Fridge Findings: Learn Where to Store your Food” (2006)

Brewer, M.S. and Chapman-Novakofski, K. 2006.  “Meat Safety for the Consumer,” University of Illinois Extension 


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