UNL Food Safety Expert Offers Tips on Keeping Food Cold

March 11, 2014

LINCOLN, Neb. — If food is not chilled properly it can become a host for microbes that can make people sick, a University of Nebraska-Lincoln food specialist said.

Julie Albrecht, a food specialist in the university's Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, said food needs to be at 40 degrees Fahrenheit to properly protect it from microbes.

"People should try to have a refrigerator thermometer hanging in their refrigerator," Albrecht said.

A refrigerator thermometer is the best indicator of temperature. 

"Many refrigerators have a dial with numbers that help you regulate the temperature but there is no indication of the actual temperature," Albrecht said.

Refrigerator thermometers can be found at any hardware store or in grocery stores which have an equipment or appliance section.

Perishables, prepared foods and leftovers should be refrigerated or frozen within two hours of purchase or use.

Albrecht said it is possible for refrigerators to become too cold.

Temperatures approaching 32 degrees Fahrenheit can cause food to freeze, which can harm the freshness of fruits and vegetables.

Albrecht also cautioned against overfilling the refrigerator.

"If people pack it too full and push things to the back you don't have a nice air flow," Albrecht said.

Cold air needs to circulate to keep food safe.

Leftovers should be separated into shallow containers for quicker cooling in the refrigerator and food should not be thawed at room temperature.

Julie Albrecht, Ph.D.
Nutrition and Health Sciences

Heather Haskins
Student Writer

Sandi Alswager Karstens
IANR News Service