This Is the Exact Temperature You Should Set Your Refrigerator To
The United States Department of Agriculture says that one of the most common causes of foodborne illness is insufficient cooling of already cooked foods. As you likely already know, bacteria can reappear and grow on leftovers if it's not stored properly in the refrigerator within two hours of being cooked. Of course, the temperature of the refrigerator is equally as important.
To explain just how critical it is to make sure your refrigerator is set to a cool enough temperature, we asked Janell Goodwin, Food Safety Expert with the USDA's Food Safety & Inspection Service, to weigh in on the exact refrigerator temperature.
What temperature should you set your refrigerator to, and why is this important in regards to food safety?
"Refrigerators should be set to maintain a temperature of 40°F or below," says Goodwin. Keeping foods cool at this temperature (and cooler) slows bacterial growth, which cuts your risk of foodborne illness.
What could happen if the temperature rises above this temperature?
"Bacteria grows most rapidly in the range of temperatures between 40 and 140°F," says Goodwin. This temperature range is what the USDA calls the Danger Zone, where bacteria can double in number in as little as 20 minutes. "A refrigerator set at 40°F or below will protect most foods," she says.
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What's the best way to keep tabs on all things food safety?
Goodwin recommends downloading the FoodKeeper app designed by Foodsafety.gov.
"The FoodKeeper app educates users about food safety with guidance on the safe handling, preparation, and storage of foods," says Goodwin. "The app also helps reduce food waste by showing users how long foods may last in the refrigerator, freezer or pantry, and allowing consumers to place reminders on their smartphone calendar to use these items before they may spoil."
If you don't have an Apple or Android smartphone, you can still go online via a desktop and track how long you have had your food that way as well.
"Storage times listed are intended as useful guidelines and are not hard-and-fast rules," Goodwin explains. "Some foods may deteriorate more quickly, while others may last longer than the times suggested."