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why  the refrigerator temperature matters

Not having the proper refrigerator temperature could make you sick.

Used correctly, your fridge will keep food safe from spoilage and bacteria. Used incorrectly, it could cause big trouble - of the tummy kind.

Essentially, no food benefits from storage. You want to eat everything as fresh as you can.

The refrigerator temperature and food storage guidelines below can help you keep food safe for you and your family.

Some Parts of Your Refrigerator Are Cold; Others Colder

Some parts of your fridge are colder than others. The meat compartment at the bottom of your fridge is designed to store meat - so keep it there.

Not only is this the coldest area, but if the package leaks, it won't contaminate other foods.

The door is the warmest part of the appliance.

This is the best place for nonperishables (sodas), not perishables (eggs).

Regularly Check the Interior Refrigerator Temperature

You need to have a refrigerator thermometer. Ditto for the freezer temperature, which should be kept at 0 to 5 degrees F.

To keep food from spoiling, the refrigerator temperature needs to be between 34 and 40 degrees F.

You can't depend on the little gauge (1-5) in the refrigerator.

Safe Food Handling Tips

  • Don't put hot food in the fridge. Bring it to room temperature before chilling it. Hot foods can cause the interior temperature to drop.
  • On the other hand, don't leave food out too long either. Refrigerate prepared food within two hours of cooking (one hour in summer).
  • Don't overload. Parties are a dangerous time because you cram a lot of stuff into the refrigerator and then you're continually opening the door, causing the refrigerator temperature to fluctuate significantly. Turn the temperature down during these occasions.
  • Cover foods tightly.
  • Leave meats in their original packaging to prevent spreading bacteria.
  • Don't store bread, cookies, or most cakes in here. They will become stale.
  • Tell your family not to stand gazing slack-jawed into the open fridge while they decide what they want to eat.
  • If you lose power, do not open your freezer or fridge doors. If the door is not opened, food should keep eight hours in the refrigerator and 48 hours in the freezer.

How Long Food Keeps in the Refrigerator

Refrigerating foods helps keep them fresh, but they still won't last forever. Here are a few examples of how long it's safe to keep some foods.


  • Cooked vegetables
  • Fresh vegetables
  • Poultry, fish, ground meats
  • Other meats
  • Deli meats
  • Hot dogs
  • Milk
  • Sour cream
  • Fresh eggs
  • Condiments

How Long It's Safe

  • 3-4 days
  • 2 to 14 days 
  • 1 to 2 days
  • 3 to 5 day 
  • 5 days
  • 1 week opened; 2 weeks unopened
  • 5 to 7 days
  • 4 weeks
  • 3 weeks
  • 1 to 6 months (opened in the fridge)

Best advice when it comes to your refrigerator and food safety: When in doubt, throw it out. A little thriftiness is not worth a tummy ache. 

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› Prevent Refrigerator Problems


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