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Keeping food safe in your fridge

Food must be stored correctly to keep consumers safe. This is particularly important for keeping food safe in your fridge, as proper storage can reduce spoilage and bacterial growth, thereby preventing foodborne illnesses.

In this article, we will explore the principles of food safety and the best practices for keeping food safe in your fridge. We will outline strategies for organising food using different shelves and drawers designated for specific types of food, ensuring that everything is kept at an ideal temperature. Additionally, we will discuss methods to reduce the chance of cross-contamination between raw and cooked or ready-to-eat foods, keeping your fridge at the right overall temperature, making sure your fridge is regularly cleaned and organising your food using the oldest bought items first.

Vegetable in a salad drawer in a fridge


Keep your fridge at the right temperature

It is recommended that your refrigerator is kept between 1 and 4°C to prevent the proliferation of harmful bacteria and ensure that perishables like dairy, meat and leftovers remain safe for consumption. Although the temperature will fluctuate in different parts of your fridge, maintaining the overall interior at this temperature helps minimise these variations. Also avoid placing hot food directly in the fridge, this can raise the internal temperature, risking the safety of other stored foods.

Somebody checking a fridge temperature with a device

Food compartmentalisation

The refrigerator is designed with various compartments, including salad drawers, door shelves and sometimes separate areas for meats, fruits and vegetables. These areas are often set at different temperatures, with some locations being colder and others warmer. By compartmentalising food into different temperature zones and sections facilitates organised storage, reduces the risk of bacterial multiplication, prolongs freshness and helps prevent contamination, keeping food safe in your fridge.

This image provides a visual guide to what food should be stored in which location within the fridge:

Image to show where different foods are best located in a fridge, ie cooked foods on top shelf, raw foods isolated on the shelf above the salad drawers.

In our next section, we give a justification for each food type and its position, relating it to temperature and specific location within the fridge.

Top Shelf (where the temperature can be slightly warmer than the lower shelves):

What food should be stored there: Drinks and ready-to-eat foods (like leftovers).
Why? These foods are less susceptible to fluctuations in temperature and do not spoil as easily. They are also kept away from raw foods that may be at risk of contamination.

Middle Shelves (where the temperature may be a bit colder):

What food should be stored there: Dairy products (such as milk, cheese, eggs and yogurt) and cooked meats.
Why? Offers a balance of cooler and warmer temperatures for food helping preserve its freshness and ensuring food safety.

Bottom Shelf (the coldest part of the fridge):

What foods should be stored there: Raw meat, poultry and seafood.
Why? Cooler area of the fridge – This is the best spot to minimise the risk of bacterial spread and contamination from juices touching other foods. Ideally, these foods should be kept in airtight containers or sealed/wrapped tightly, this can extend the shelf life of your food.

Storage of fresh meat and seafood in a fridge tightly sealed.

Bottom of Fridge – Salad Drawers:

What foods should be stored there: Fruits and vegetables.
Why: This separation helps in preserving their freshness and texture.

Fridge Door (the warmest part of the fridge due to frequent opening and closing):

What to Store: Condiments, preserves and juices
Why: Perishable items should be avoided in this area due to the temperature changes that can cause them to spoil more quickly.

Bonus tip: Avoid putting opened cans in the fridge as they can result in chemical contamination.

Clean your fridge regularly

Your fridge should be cleaned regularly, it is important to clean the fridge whenever spills occur, using a mild detergent to prevent the accumulation of bacteria.

Somebody cleaning a fridge

Use older items before newer ones

The FIFO method, an acronym for ‘First In, First Out”, is a systematic approach to using older items before newer ones. This practice will help to ensure you are eating fresh food and eat food by its use-by date, although food that is past its best-before date can still be eaten. But it’s quality may not be as good as when you first bought it.

In summary, by understanding and implementing best practices of keeping food safe in your fridge you can ensure your food remains fresh and safe for consumption and reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses. These measures include food being stored in the correct location within your fridge, keeping the fridge at an ideal temperature, ensuring cleanliness and employing a first in, first out stock rotation.

Interested in our online food hygiene and safety training?

Our online level 1 and level 2 food hygiene and safety training courses are perfect for anyone looking to gain knowledge and understand best practices around food safety, including covering the principles of storing food safely, preventing foodborne illnesses and promoting safer and more hygienic conditions in kitchens.

Contact our friendly customer support team who are always ready to discuss your food safety and food allergen training needs.

  • Food Safety