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Christine Bruhn, PhD is the Director of the Center for Consumer Research at the University of California, Davis where she earned her doctorate. Dr. Bruhn has a special interest and passion for safe food handling practices. Her major area of research is in consumer attitudes and perceptions of food quality, safety and wholesomeness. Dr. Bruhn travels widely and is a sought after speaker at both academic and government conferences on food safety and food handling and food processing technologies . She currently serves on several education and advisory panels including the Food and Drug Administration's Risk Communication Advisory Group. In addition, she is often contacted by members of the media when questions of food safety make the news, especially in her home state of California. Along with her interest in making sure everyone knows “How to determine when your food had gone bad,” she is an avid cook and enjoys sharing practical food safety tips with her family and friends. For more information on food safety and nutrition questions, please visit IFIC.org.
How to Properly Store Your Food in the Fridge
Christine Bruhn, Center for Consumer Research at UC Davis, shows the safest way to store food.
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Christine Bruhn: I am Christine Bruhn, University of California at Davis, the Department of Food Science and Technology. I am talking about how you can tell if your food has gone bad and now we are going to be looking at the refrigerator to see what methods you can use to make sure that your refrigerator does what it is supposed to do and keeps your food safe keeps your food in good quality. One of the first most important things is to make sure your refrigerator is cold enough, get a refrigerator thermometer. These are available at all kinds of hardware stores and other places and most of them tell you where your refrigerator should be. It should be at 40 degrees and not any warmer than that. So put it in your refrigerator, make it right at the front, check it often and if your refrigerator is not cold enough, turn the temperature down. Next, you have got to consider where you are storing different things and the warmest part of the refrigerator is the door and although some of these shelves fit wonderful products like milk just perfectly, don't store your milk there. The engineers didn't talk to the food safety specialist and your milk shouldn't be in that warm door. It is going to go sour too soon. Keep it in the main body of your refrigerator. That will keep it colder. Put things like condiments that are not nearly as perishable in the door. Some refrigerators are also built with egg containers in the door. Don't put them there either. Leave your eggs in the carton, ideally, with the lid on and that will keep the eggs cool and it will make their freshness last a long time. If this still had the top, you could see the expiration date at the end of the carton and eggs are usually safe 2-3 weeks after their expiration date. Things that do go well in the door are things like butter or margarine if you use that, because it can be a little bit warmer and it is good for spreading if it is in a little bit warmer type. The other thing to keep in mind when you are inside your refrigerator is to guard against cross-contamination. If you have got a meat drawer, keep all your food in the meat drawer. For this brand, it is at the very bottom. But wherever it is, it is a contained space and that's where you should keep all your raw meat and poultry products. They usually also have at least one drawer for produce and keep your produce in there as well. Do not wash it before you are going in because washing it has water and it makes bacteria really happy and they will maybe grow. So put it in straight away and wash just before using and then you keep that drawer clean by washing it periodically like every week or two. Let's say you are having a party and you have so many things that you have got to make a violation of that. Your meat drawer is totally full and you are going to have to store your meat or your produce somewhere else, then watch against cross-contamination. For example, this is frozen chicken, we are defrosting it in the refrigerator to make sure that it stays safe, but we are not relying just on the bag to hold any produce juices. We are going to actually put the chicken on a tray or a plate so if there is any leakage here, the leakage goes into the bowl and there is no chance for the juices to drip on to the apples or to any of the other products, the eggs or anything else that's in the refrigerator. We are preventing cross-contamination in that way. So keep it cold, 40 degrees or less here, zero degrees or less in the freezer and that's the way to make your refrigerator work well. Now as a final thought, how can you tell if your food has gone bad? Well, you have to handle your foods safely all the way along the line. That means, following the guidelines from the United States Food Safety Service and the Fight Back group, that means fight bacteria and the first way you fight them is keeping everything clean, your hands, your cooking services, your storage services, washing with soap and water, separate raw meat and poultry from cooked or ready-to-eat products. Be sure you chill things adequately, put them right in the refrigerator, don't stack your items, allow the cold air to move around and make the products cold rapidly and then cook it sufficiently and these allow that you both do by using a thermometer. Thanks very much. Hope you enjoyed these tips. You can do it.