All food has a limited shelf life which will vary depending on the type of food, how it is packaged and how carefully it is stored. Refrigeration can substantially reduce the rate at which food naturally deteriorates. And for that, there are certain things we can do to have a safe practice in our kitchens. This post is about ideal fridge temperature, refrigeration tips, difference between “use by” and “best before” dates and storage life of some vegetarian chilled foods.
Ideal Fridge Temperature
Most food poisoning bacteria will not grow below 5 degrees Celsius. Therefore the ideal temperature to set your fridge at is 4 degrees Celsius.
Another important point to consider is the fridge should be kept as cold as possible but not so cold that milk, lettuce, eggs and some other foods will freeze.
Different parts of your fridge will operate at different temperatures—to be sure, refer to manufacturer’s manual. Check the temperature of the fridge regularly, using a refrigerator thermometer, especially during the hot summer months. Your thermometer should always read below 5 degrees Celsius when placed in the centre of the fridge. Fridge thermometers can be purchased from some shops where they sell kitchen supplies, supermarkets, hardware and department stores.
• Avoid overloading the refrigerator; you need cold air to circulate properly around food. Even though, our fridges today can handle hot food reasonably well, overloading your fridge with hot food makes it difficult to keep the right temperature.
• Cover all foods to be stored with plastic wrap, or place in sealed glass or plastic containers before refrigerating. Of course, glass is healthier than plastic.
• Store raw foods separately from cooked foods. Store raw foods at the bottom of the fridge below cooked and ready-to-eat foods.
• If you’ve had a power cut, your fridge should keep food cool for four to six hours, depending on the temperature of the room. If chilled food reaches room temperature it is safest to toss it out.
• Never taste food that looks or smells strange to determine whether or not you can still use it. When in doubt, throw it out.
• Never, ever eat food spoiled by mould. Where mould grows on the surface of food such as fruits and vegetables it’s not safe to trim off the mould to use them. Mould can produce toxins that penetrate below the surface of the food. Hard cheeses, however, may be trimmed 3 centimetres to remove mould.
• Clean out your fridge once a week and throw out what looks suspicious.
Difference Between “Use By” and “Best Before”
When it comes to food safety, it is important to understand the difference between use by and best before dates.
Use By: This term is the serious one. It means the food MUST be consumed before a certain date. If not, it is not safe.
Best Before: This term is used for more stable foods such as tinned foods, biscuits and frozen foods. Food is still safe to after the specific date on the package. However, it may not be as nutritious as it would have been if consumed before.
Storage life of some chilled foods in the coldest part of the refrigerator
I put together vegetarian foods, starting from high protein, easy to spoil foods like cheese, cream, etc. information here is taken from Food Standards Australia and New Zealand.
|Food||Expected shelf life in the home|
|Hard cheese||Variable (1-3 months)|
|Camembert, Brie||2-3 weeks|
|Unpackaged cottage, ricotta, cream cheeses||10 days|
|Margarine||Variable (6 months)|
|Oil and fat||Variable (6 months)|
|Fruit juices||7-14 days|