Incorrect storage of food can cause spoilage and food poisoning. High risk food should be kept below 5°C or above 60°C to avoid the 'temperature danger zone', where bacteria multiply fastest. High risk food includes meat, poultry, eggs, smallgoods, dairy products, cooked rice, pasta and prepared salads. It is best not to refreeze food which has been frozen and thawed once. Store raw food separately from cooked food.
Food poisoning is frequently caused by bacteria from food that has been poorly stored, handled or cooked. Food contaminated with food poisoning bacteria may look, smell and taste normal. If food is not stored properly, the bacteria in it can multiply to dangerous levels.
Beware of the temperature danger zoneFood poisoning bacteria grow and multiply fastest in the temperature danger zone between 5°C and 60°C. It is important to keep high risk food away from this temperature zone.
Take special care with high risk foodsFood poisoning bacteria can grow and multiply on some types of food more easily than others. High risk foods include:
- Poultry such as chicken and turkey
- Dairy products
- Smallgoods such as salami and ham
- Cooked rice
- Cooked pasta
- Prepared salads such as coleslaw, pasta salads and rice salads
- Prepared fruit salads.
Storing food in the fridgeYour fridge temperature should be below 5°C. The freezer temperature should be below -15°C. Use a fridge thermometer to check the temperature in your fridge.
Freezing food safely
- When shopping, buy chilled and frozen foods at the end of your trip and take them home to store as quickly as possible.
- On hot days or for trips longer than 30 minutes, try to take an insulated cooler bag or icepack to keep frozen foods cold. Keep hot and cold foods separate while you take them home.
- When you arrive home, put chilled and frozen foods into the fridge or freezer immediately. Make sure foods stored in the freezer are frozen hard.
Storing cooked food safelyWhen you have cooked food and want to store it:
- Put hot food into shallow dishes or smaller portions to help cool the food as quickly as possible.
- Don’t put very hot food into the refrigerator. Wait until steam has stopped rising from the food before putting it in the fridge.
Avoid refreezing thawed food
- Food poisoning bacteria can grow in frozen food while it is thawing, so avoid thawing frozen food in the temperature danger zone.
- Keep defrosted food in the fridge until it is ready to be cooked. If defrosting using a microwave oven, cook the food immediately after defrosting.
- As a general rule, it is best to avoid refreezing thawed food. Bacteria in food that is frozen a second time do not die and the food is likely to have higher levels of food poisoning bacteria.
- The risk depends on the condition of the food when frozen and how the food is handled between thawing and refreezing, but raw food should never be refrozen once thawed.
Store raw food separately from cooked food
- Raw food and cooked food should be stored separately in the fridge.
- Bacteria from raw food can contaminate cold cooked food, and the bacteria can multiply to dangerous levels if the food is not cooked again.
- Always store raw food in sealed or covered containers at the bottom of the fridge.
- Keep raw foods below cooked foods, to avoid liquid such as meat juices dripping down and contaminating the cooked food.
Choose strong, non-toxic food storage containers
- Make sure your food storage containers are clean and in good condition, and only use them for storing food.
- Cover them with tight-fitting lids, foil or plastic film to prevent the food drying out and to prevent anything from falling in.
- Do not store food in opened cans.
If in doubt, throw it outThrow out high risk food left in temperature danger zone for more than four hours – don’t put it in the fridge and don’t keep it for later. Check and observe use-by dates on food products – if in doubt, throw it out.
Things to remember
- Keep high risk food below 5°C or above 60°C to avoid the temperature danger zone.
- Store raw foods below cooked foods.
- Avoid refreezing thawed foods.
- Check and observe use-by dates on food products.
- Take special care with high risk foods.