Domestic fridges are not very large and an overcrowded fridge or freezer does not allow the cold air to circulate freely around the food to keep them adequately frozen or chilled. When the fridge contains a large load of food, it has to work overtime to cope and, particularly if the weather is hot, the temperature inside will rise.
You should have a fridge thermometer inside the fridge so you can check that your fridge is operating at the correct temperature (at or under 5 °C). At these temperatures food poisoning bacteria will multiply very slowly and the food will remain safe for two or three days. Check your fridge temperature regularly, after any newly refrigerated food has had a chance to cool, and adjust the controls to lower the temperature if necessary.
Make sure that raw meat and poultry can’t contaminate ready to eat food. Raw food can contain food poisoning bacteria. This is not a problem if the food is cooked before it is eaten. However, if these bacteria get onto ready to eat food, such as salads, desserts or foods that have already been cooked, they can cause food poisoning. Learn more about cross contamination
You inevitably will run out of space to allow you to do this properly, particularly if your guests are also bringing food which needs to be refrigerated until you are ready to eat, so what should you do?
- Take out the beer. Drinks can’t make you sick if they are inadequately cooled but food can. Fill the laundry sink and insulated containers or buckets with ice to keep beer and soft drinks chilled.
- Ground coffee doesn’t need to be refrigerated just stored in an airtight jar.
- Whole fruit can survive in the fruit bowl or cupboard, as can whole raw vegetables.
- Those jars of pickles, chutneys and bottled sauces that have vinegar on the label can come out too because they won’t be a problem outside the fridge for a couple of days.
- If you still don’t have enough room, make sure the things that are eaten later are in the fridge and leave out the things you will eat first.Remember the temperature danger zone – these foods can stay out of the fridge for up to four hours in total but must be thrown out after that.
Keep these items at high risk of food poisoning bugs in the fridge:
- cooked meats, deli meats, patés etc. should be left in the fridge until you are ready to eat them
- salads – especially cooked vegetable, pasta or rice salads (whether they contain meat or not)
- eady to eat seafood
- dips and other ready to eat foods
- cream, egg and custard based desserts
- any dish containing raw or minimally cooked eggs, such as home made mayonnaise or sauces.