The Best Temperature for Short-Term Refrigeration Storage

Fresh produce, frozen food, raw meat and poultry, and pharmaceuticals. When it comes to short-term refrigeration, there is an ideal temperature set for each. The goal for refrigerating such items is simple. It’s to keep you and everyone from putting your health in the danger zone. Bacteria such as Salmonella, E. coli O157:H7, and C. botulinum are notorious for infesting foods that are not adequately stored.

In the logistic industry, proper handling and storing is what concerns most customers. Especially when purchasing perishable goods online. No matter the items you want to store, there are temperature requirements that must be set for each.

Temperature Standards Per Product Type

At room temperatures, the number of bacterias can double every 20 minutes. Don’t feed off products that may be carrying food-borne illnesses. There’s a range of ideal temperatures for short-term refrigeration. You should be able to store your food and products without worries.

Frozen Goods (-18°C or 0°F)

Frozen goods properly stored

Frozen goods must be kept at a temperature of -18°C or 0°F. Food could become discolored and decrease nutritional value if the temperature goes above the suggested temperature. You cannot reverse the effect by decreasing the temperature once it has been raised.

If properly wrapped, frozen fresh produce, as well as fish and meat, can last for months. Otherwise, they will not store well. Freezer products that are not properly wrapped will also develop freezer burn. It’s a loss of moisture, which affects both the texture and the flavor of the food.

When it comes to frozen meals, rotating stock is crucial. In normal chest freezers, this rotation is challenging. It often requires the removal of old stocks before adding fresh stocks. Though, sometimes, you can’t help but take out the last product you bought first, rather than the old stocks.

What is freezer burn?

Freezer burn happens when improper packing of the food allows air to dry out its surface. If you remove food from the freezer and you find white and dried-out patches, this means that the freezer burn has occurred. While it’s not a bad thing, it may cause your food to become tasteless when consumed.

Refrigerated Products (4°C or 39°F)

Refrigerated vegetables, fruits and eggs

Walk-in and standard, whatever refrigerator you have, foods must be kept at 4°C or 39°F, or colder. This is the ideal and safe temperature for refrigerated storage. To reduce contamination and decay, many perishable foods must be kept in the refrigerator. Always follow the basic rule of storing food:  keep raw products below, and not above your cooked foods.

Don’t overpack your food as the cold air must travel around refrigerated food so they stay properly chilled. You must clean up spills right away. Getting rid of drips off thawing meats would help fight cross-contamination. It happens when bacteria from one food migrate to another. Wiping up spills also helps in reducing the growth of Listeria bacteria. A microorganism that can thrive at chilled temperatures.

Refrigerated goods should be stored in sealed containers or closed storage bags, while leftovers must be checked daily for deterioration. You must also check the expiration dates of food products.  Discard anything that has passed its expiration date. In case you’re unsure or perhaps the food appears to be tainted, follow the simple rule: If in doubt, throw it out.

Fresh Produce (2° to 4°C or 36° to 39°F)

how to store fresh produce fruits and vegatables

To guarantee freshness and avoid quick deterioration, fresh produce is kept in the fridge at this temperature range. But there are a few exceptions.  Potatoes and bananas, for example, must be refrigerated at higher temperatures. Bananas, especially, turn black quickly. So, it must be kept at 10°C to 15°C or 50°F to 59°F.

For unripe fruit, they can be ripened at 10°C to 15°C (50°F to 59°F) within the storeroom. Under fridge temperatures, it will ripen even more slowly. Soft fruits, on the other hand, must not be kept for too long. It’s sometimes wise to purchase soft fruit as needed, having only a small amount in store.

The amount of time that produce could be stored obviously varies. Sturdy veggies, including carrots and cabbage, can be stored for weeks, whereas delicate veggies, such as lettuce, must be acquired as early as possible since they do not store well.

Veggies soften when they are exposed to moisture, which leads to decay. But while there is nothing fundamentally wrong with these kinds of veggies in the beginning phases of decomposition, they can be unpleasant to the sight.

Dairy Products (2°C to 4°C or 36° to 39°F)

how to store dairy products featured photo

Dairy products are best stored at this temperature range. Such a product has a proclivity for absorbing strong foul odor from the storage environment. Keep dairy items in a separate section with protective coverings to limit the risk of it happening. More so, dairy products must not be kept in a veggie cooler. Instead, they should be stored in a small separate refrigerator.

Keeping the fridge clean at all times, and taking out old stocks when new dairy products arrive is a must. Ordering dairy products further ahead of when they’ll be consumed is not a good idea. These products must, preferably, be distributed on a regular basis.

Fresh Meats, Poultry, and Seafood (4°C or 39°F)

Stored Fresh Meats, Poultry, and Seafood

These products are the hardest to keep, but when you store fresh meats, poultry, and seafood, observe the critical point above. It’s not really advisable to keep fresh meat for an extended period of time. Boned meat should be stored for only three days.

Individually cut meats should also be consumed in two days of being cut, ideally the same day. Steaks, chops, stewing meats, and minced beef should always be stored sealed at 2°C to 4°C or at 36°F to 39°F on plastic or stainless trays.

You must unwrap any carcass meats and hang those to allow air to circulate throughout them. When storing in a  walk-in refrigerator, keep them between 1°C and 3°C or 34°F and 37°F. Lay an absorbing sheet beneath the meat to catch any drippings.

Refrigerate fresh poultry by wrapping it in ice, while fresh fish must be wrapped in ice and kept refrigerated at 1°C to 2°C or 30°F to 34°F until consumed. Raw foods should be placed on the lower shelves of the fridge, beneath cooked foods.

Pharmaceuticals (2 to 8°C or 35 to 46°F)

How to properly stored pharmaceuticals featured photo

Such a temperature range is ideal for transporting most vaccinations, and antibiotics. As well as other temperature-sensitive prescription supplies. Patients rely on medicine’s efficacy. So, temperature control is important. Especially in the logistic industry.

Adopting temperature-sensitive packing that has been scientifically manufactured is essential. As well as using climate-controlled transportation facilities. These are specifically designed in compliance with medical standards to keep the products stable. 

Storing in the Fridge

The temperatures in your fridge don’t destroy the pathogenic or spoilage microorganisms in your food. But the lower temperature can slow down their growth. Microorganisms, enzymes, and oxidation will cause perishable items to decay. And they can deteriorate even in refrigerator conditions. Time and temperature affect food quality. Here some pointers to consider:

  • Keep your fridge at a temperature range of 34°F to 40°F. You can use a refrigerator thermometer to keep track of the temperatures inside your unit.
  • Consume food fast, and therefore don’t trust it to keep its freshness for an extended period of time. Unsealed or partly used products decay faster than those that have not been opened.
  • Always maintained milk, meats, and leftovers should be colder than other food products.
  • The area closest to the freezer is typically the coldest part of the fridge. But as mentioned already, a fridge thermometer should give you a precise inspection for each appliance.
  • Don’t cover refrigerator shelves with foil or any other material. Covering prohibits air circulation from chilling the food fast and evenly.
  • Most foods should be stored in the fridge using foil or plastic wraps. As well as enclosed containers. Odor, dried-out food products, nutrient depletion, and mold growth are all possible consequences of open dishes.

Storing in the Freezer

To preserve the quality of frozen foods, maintain your freezer at 0°F or below. If you keep the temperature between -10°F and -20°F, most foods will last longer. Food starts to deteriorate quicker at temperatures between 0°F and 32°F. Temperature fluctuations harm the quality of food. Such fluctuations happen in self-defrosting freezers.

If your freezer can’t maintain 0°F, don’t intend to store frozen foods for the most recommended time. Sometimes, even properly refrigerated food products end up losing color, and texture. As well as flavor and nutritional value. Though they do not cause food poisoning.

Much like chillers, freezer temperatures don’t destroy the pathogenic or spoilage microorganisms. But once you thaw out food, the surface gets warm enough for microorganisms to thrive. 

Always check the temperature of your fridge; here’s how you can do it besides using a thermometer.:

  • Examining the consistency of ice cream stored in the compartment. Your fridge’s temperature is too warm if the ice cream isn’t completely frozen, or has a hard-brick consistency.
  • Check whether your freezer is working properly or not. You can do so by installing a warning light or another handset to alert you.

Time is also an important factor in preserving frozen food quality. You can label frozen foods, keep a rotation system, and then consume the products with the most recent expiration dates first.

Thawing Food the Safe Way

Thawing Food the Safe Way featured photo

It’s merely risky to just let food defrost at ambient temperature since microorganisms grow so quickly in unrefrigerated food. A few microbes, if left unrefrigerated, can produce toxins that endure the cooking process. This can occur even if the meal is cooked to temperature levels that kill the bacteria.

Safe thawing can be achieved in three ways. You can either thaw food in the fridge, ice-cold water, or in the microwave. If you’re thawing food in ice water, ensure you change it every half an hour or so to keep it chilly. If you prefer to thaw it in the microwave, you must cook it right away.

What to Do In Case Power Goes Off?

Power interruption happens. So, when such a case occurs, how would you know which food to keep in the fridge and which ones you need to take out and eat?

Here are some steps you can do:

  • If you get a notice that you could lose power, freeze water in quart-size sealable plastic storage bags. You can store those in your freezer and refrigerator early on to keep the food chilled once the electricity goes out.
  • Keep your refrigerator and freezer doors closed as often as possible.
  • Consult your freezer and refrigerator thermometers before consuming foods. You can safely eat the food if it has only been above 40 °F for or less than two hours, or if the temperature sets still at or below 40 °F.
  • You can safely reheat and put frozen food with ice crystals or temperatures of 40°F, or lower back in the freezer. To ensure you get the right temperature, check your fridge’s thermometer. Or you can use a food thermometer on each food package.
  • Lastly, don’t stand a gamble when you’re not sure exactly how long the temperature has been at or above 40 °F. Get rid of the food right away.

Cold Facts About Foodborne Illnesses

Even if your food does not appear, smell, or taste spoiled, it can make you extremely ill. This is due to the fact that pathogenic bacteria provoke foodborne illnesses, as opposed to oxidation bacteria that can cause foods to spoil.

Foodborne illnesses are common and are more serious than many might actually think. According to the federal government, there are approximately 48 million reported cases of foodborne illness each year. This is the equivalent of 1 in every 6 Americans becoming ill. Such illnesses are thought to account to 128,000 hospital admissions and 3,000 fatalities every year.

Salmonella is the leading cause of foodborne illness and fatality. The bacteria E. coli O157:H7 can generate a lethal toxin. Each year, there are somewhere around 20,000 and 40,000 cases of E. coli O157:H7 infection. Botulism is an illness caused by the Clostridium botulinum bacterium, which produces lethal toxins that can paralyze muscles.

Campylobacter, noroviruses, Shigella, and other pathogens can cause serious health problems. Especially in children, the elderly, as well as those with chronic illnesses or weakened immune systems.

What else can you do?

Seafood raw, undercooked meat, poultry, milk, and eggs, as well as fresh produce and unclean water. All contain pathogens. Keeping these items properly chilled will help prevent the progression of microbes. Having followed other suggested food handling can even further lessen your risk of getting sick:

  • Wash your hands, clean surfaces, and produce
  • Segregate raw foods from your ready-to-eat foods
  • Cook meals to appropriate temperatures

FAQs

What is the temperature range of the danger zone?

According to the USDA, the temperature range of the danger zone is between 40 °F (4.4 ºC) and 140 °F (60 ºC). These temperature ranges are where bacteria can thrive rapidly.

What is the correct temperature range for refrigerated storage?

Refrigerate at or below 40° F (4° C). You should set your freezer set to 0° F (-18° C). Do track the temperature on a regular basis. If your appliance has a thermometer, you can use it as it gives the most accurate temperature.

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