The most important appliance for food safety is the refrigerator. In busy households, it's easy to forget to monitor basic equipment for problems until they break down completely. Try the following:
- Check the fridge's internal temperature: it should be a maximum of 40 degrees F--preferably cooler. Freezers should be kept at 0 degrees F and below. Temperatures below 40 degrees F will slow bacterial growth, while temps above 140 degrees will kill bacteria, although it won't destroy any residual toxins.
- Don't over-stuff your fridge--proper air circulation is imperative to keep products cool.
- Practice the food rotation system “FIFO”--First In, First Out. Use up older products first before opening new packages.
- Avoid using chemical cleaning solutions inside the fridge. Instead, use warm water mixed with lemon juice or white vinegar for a radiant and chemical-free shine.
- Once a week, do a clean sweep of the fridge: check produce and other perishables, and throw out any items past their prime or expiration date. Scheduling your cleaning for the day before garbage pick-up is ideal.
- Remove odors with a lemon juice-sprinkled sponge.
- Keep an open box of good old-fashioned baking soda in the refrigerator and another one in the freezer to absorb odors.
Basic ingredients that you probably already have on hand are great for sanitizing:
Distilled White Vinegar Has a limitless shelf-life, is a great sanitizer, is economical and is one of the best grease eliminators around. Keep a spray bottle of undiluted vinegar handy for quick clean-ups.
- Disinfecting cutting boards: water and dishwashing detergents can weaken surface fibers on wood cutting boards and butcher block counter tops. Instead, wipe them with full strength white vinegar after each use. The acetic acid in the vinegar is a good disinfectant, effective against many harmful bugs.
- Jars, containers, drinking glasses and china: fill with equal parts vinegar, water and soap and let stand for 10-15 minutes; clean and rinse.
- Chrome and stainless steel: wipe down with vinegar and water; buff with a soft cloth.
Bleach Create a sanitizing solution of 100 parts per million of bleach to cool or tepid water: use ¼ tsp. bleach for every quart of water. Using hot water will cause the bleach to evaporate and lose its effectiveness.
- Disinfect trash containers on a regular basis; mark it on the calendar as a reminder.
- After washing cutting surfaces, clean them with bleach solution.
- Wash sponges, dishrags and dishtowels frequently.
- Never combine bleach with cleaning products that contain ammonia, such as glass cleaners.