Published on Wednesday, 30 November -0001 00:00
Hardly a week goes by without hearing about a food-borne illness outbreak (formerly known as food poisoning). Often times these outbreaks are traced back to commercial operations, food service establishments and restaurants. But what about food-borne illness caused in homes? Approximately half of all food-borne illness occurs from foods prepared at home. Many of the 'stomach flu bugs' we get are never reported to doctors and therefore, cannot be confirmed as food-borne illnesses. Recent research conducted by Tennessee State University, Kansas State University, and RTI International, found that consumers don't realize that their own refrigerators can contribute to an increased potential for food-borne illness occurring in their own home. Here's what the research found: You're not alone if you don't know the recommended temperature for your refrigerator. According to research, 65 percent of Americans don't know that the temperature for a refrigerator needs to be below 40 degrees to prevent microorganisms from rapidly growing and multiplying. Do you know the temperature of your refrigerator? About 15 percent of the research participants knew their own refrigerator's temperature. And of those who said they own a refrigerator thermometer, very few check them. Another issue of confusion is that people think the thermostat which is used to raise or lower the temperature is a thermometer. It is not. Refrigerator thermometers can be purchased at stores carrying kitchen supplies and are an inexpensive investment in the safety of your food. Most refrigerators' internal temperatures exceed the recommended 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. Researchers measured the internal temperatures of refrigerators using infrared sensors. The doors of refrigerators consistently were the warmest area of the fridge. If you currently store milk and eggs in the fridge door consider moving them to an interior shelf. How often do you thoroughly clean your refrigerator? A thorough cleaning was defined as emptying out the fridge, cleaning out the interior surfaces, removing the bins and shelves, and washing and drying them. By doing a thorough cleaning twice a month the risk of microbial contamination decreases. The areas showing greatest levels of contamination are the fruit and vegetable bin, the bottom shelf, and the meat bin.