Temperature Tug-of-War: Refrigeration’s Battle Against Foodborne Foes


You know how refrigeration comes in handy in your everyday life, right? Food refrigeration slows bacterial growth. Bacteria may be found everywhere in nature; land, air, water, and even food. In the presence of organic matter, moisture, and ideal temperatures, bacteria multiply fast, reaching the point where some forms of bacteria can cause sickness for any consumer because of contamination.

When it comes to food safety, refrigerator storage plays an important role because it enhances food safety and reduces food waste. It also contributes to consumer health by protecting food from contamination. 

This article will explore the best practices for refrigerated food storage. Learning about proper food refrigeration can be beneficial in day-to-day life, as it can provide health benefits and keep your food quality fresh for longer. With these tips, you can keep your food fresh, secure, and delicious for as long as possible.

Consequences of inadequate refrigeration

Inadequate refrigeration can lead to compromised food quality, resulting in food spoilage. Microorganisms that cause spoilage to grow at room temperature and through ineffective refrigeration temperatures.

You can observe them through food color, smell, or texture. Although food spoilage might not cause any severe sickness, the quality of food becomes bad to consume, among other things, such as the following:

Puts the elderly in a vulnerable position

According to a study conducted in 2020, older adults with low education who are unaware of safe refrigeration practices and the temperature settings of their fridges represent the most vulnerable category when it comes to food safety risks.

Inadequate refrigeration is likely to increase the risk of illnesses among the elderly. Therefore it becomes imperative to pay attention to practices and initiatives that mitigate the health risks due to compromised refrigeration practices. 

Impacts the economy in different ways

Inadequate refrigeration has an economic impact as the costs and emissions related to increased energy consumption due to refrigeration were estimated to be around £80.9 million (about USD 104 million) and 367,411 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. 

Starting with lowering the refrigerator temperature from 7°C to 4°C could save a lot of money and reduce carbon emissions. This action could save £162.9 million (about USD 210 million) worth of wasted food each year, and prevent the release of 270,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions. 

By including only certain food items that don’t need to be refrigerated and eliminating those that don’t benefit from it, the study found that you could save even more: up to £283.8 million (about USD 366 million) and 578,383 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. By being and making mindful choices about refrigeration-related practices, you can reduce many of the negative consequences.

Environmental consequences of food waste

Food waste has detrimental effects on the environment, society, and economics. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) report, one-third of the food that is intended to be consumed by people worldwide is wasted, which amounts to around 1.3 billion tonnes of wasted food a year. 

When the wasted food decomposes, it produces a harmful greenhouse gas that affects the environment. Ineffective utilization of food resources negatively impacts effective economic practices and can disrupt sustainable development.

When food is thrown out, all inputs utilized in its production, processing, transportation, preparation, and storage are likewise squandered. Proper refrigeration is crucial for food safety and in reducing the negative impacts of food waste.

How refrigeration prevents foodborne illnesses

Refrigeration is essential for food safety, as any food kept at favorable temperatures for bacterial growth is likely to get contaminated. Keeping food at low temperatures through refrigeration can slow down the growth and multiplication of microorganisms that cause spoilage and help extend food shelf life.

Unfavorable conditions for bacterial growth

Warm and humid places are the best for bacteria to grow and reproduce. You wouldn’t want your food to become the perfect breeding ground for bacteria. By placing food in the opposite environment, the conditions become unfavorable for bacteria, so refrigeration is an effective way to keep food fresh.

Optimal refrigeration temperature prevents contamination  

A study determined that to protect the food from microbial contamination after buying or cooking, keep it in the refrigerator at the earliest possible opportunity. Knowing the correct refrigeration temperatures is essential to protect the food from contamination. 

According to the FDA, the correct refrigeration temperature should be kept at 40°F or lower for the best possible results in preserving food.

Food hygiene and safety

Refrigeration is essential for food hygiene and safety and avoiding the spread of hazardous microorganisms. It helps guarantee that food is safe and of good quality by suppressing bacterial development and food degradation.

Best practices for refrigerated food storage

Following a few practical tips and guidelines is important to ensure proper food storage in the refrigerator. By incorporating the following best practices, you can improve the shelf life of your food and keep it fresh for a longer period in the refrigerator.

Organize the fridge

Keeping raw meat, poultry, and seafood separate from ready-to-eat foods is important to prevent cross-contamination. Use separate containers or sealed plastic bags to store these items. Keep fruits and vegetables in separate drawers/shelves to prevent them from getting too cold.

Maintain appropriate temperatures

The ideal temperature for a refrigerator is between 35°F (1.7°C) and 38°F (3.3°C). Household refrigeration appliances can help extend the shelf life of fresh food products by improving their storage conditions. 

The typical refrigerator temperature of 4°C is not ideal for many fresh products, so it’s important to ensure adequate storage conditions to reduce food spoilage and prevent quality losses such as loss of aromas or vitamins. By including multiple non-frozen food compartments like chillers (ranging from -1°C to +2°C) and a cellar (8-14°C), these appliances can substantially reduce food waste due to spoilage.

Use airtight containers

Storing food in airtight containers can help prevent spoilage and keep food fresh longer. Label the containers with the storage date to track how long the food has been in the fridge. Additionally, avoid storing food in open cans, as the metal can react with the food and cause it to spoil quickly.

Read more: Food Storage Done the Right Way 

In conclusion 

Reducing food waste is critical to our planet’s long-term viability. Refrigerating food correctly and defrosting for a short time is a highly efficient way to attain this aim since it decreases food waste.

You can protect your health and reduce food waste by taking simple steps and adopting proper food storage habits, such as keeping your fridge organized by keeping separate containers and bags for different food items, regulating appropriate temperatures such as keeping temperatures ideally between 35°F (1.7°C) and 38°F (3.3°C) and using sealed containers to prevent spoilage and keeping food fresh for longer. Insufficient refrigeration poses health risks and incurs economic costs and carbon dioxide emissions, highlighting the need for improved practices for environmental benefits.

It is imperative to correct the way of refrigerating food items to help benefit the health, economy, and environment by reducing food waste. With this article as a guide, you now have everything you need to contribute!

If you would like to see more resources on food preservation, check out the Household Management Science Labs. The lab uses the research of the Institute for Life Management Science to produce courses, certifications, podcasts, videos, and other tools. Visit the Household Management Science Labs today.

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