Healthy food-handling habits at home can help protect your family from foodborne illness. Check out these must-know tips on how to store your groceries quickly and safely:
Put perishables in insulated bags or coolers.
Make sure your fridge is cold enough, says Coleman Teitelbaum, a corporate chef and marketing-partnerships manager for Sub-Zero and Wolf Appliance. It should be set to 34 to 36 degrees F. If you don’t have a digital thermostat, invest in a refrigerator thermometer and check it weekly. The freezer should be set as low as possible; –5 degrees is best.
Wash produce thoroughly (even if it’s “prewashed”), dry, and bag separately before storing; punching holes in the bag retards spoilage. Before cooking, try what Food Network star Sandra Lee, of Sandra’s Money Saving Meals, does: “I soak fresh vegetables for 15 minutes in a big pot of cold salted water. It’s a great way to get the dirt out.”
Washing can remove some contaminants, but cooking is the best way to make sure produce is safe, food-safety expert Marion Nestle, PhD, says. “Even 30 seconds in boiling water would have taken care of the E. coli in spinach,” she says.
Make sure raw and cooked items don’t touch each other in the fridge. Raw meats should be wrapped and placed in separate containers on the lowest shelf possible so they can’t drip onto anything below, Teitelbaum says.
Never place dairy or meats on the door shelves. In most refrigerators, the door is not as cold as the rest of the fridge.