June 17, 2024

Checklist for Cleaning Your Pantry and Refrigerator From USDA

It’s time for spring cleaning in the northern hemisphere, and one place food safety conscious consumers should focus is the kitchen. Your pantry and refrigerator can harbor pathogens and should be regularly cleaned and sanitized. The USDA is offering a checklist for cleaning your pantry and refrigerator.

Checklist for Cleaning Your Pantry and Refrigerator From USDA

Your refrigerator should always be set between 34°F and 40°F. Any higher and pathogens should grow, and any lower and food could freeze and lose quality. Many newer refrigerators do have built-in thermostats so you can check the temp, but if your doesn’t, an inexpensive thermometer is available most everywhere.

To keep your fridge clean, follow these steps. Always clean spills immediately with warm, soapy water. Don’t use solvent cleaning agents or abrasives, since the fumes from chemicals could get into your food and make them dangerous to eat. Store leftovers safely in sealed containers. Discard or freeze leftovers after four days. And keep raw ground meat and poultry items no longer than two days before cooking or freezing.

Clean the condenser coil on your fridge with a brush or vacuum cleaner several times a year to get rid of dirt or lint so the appliance works correctly and efficiently. To properly clean your fridge, follow these steps.

To clean your pantry, remove everything, then check the food containers. Discard any cans that are bulging, badly dented, or leaking. Never eat food from cracked jars, jars that have loose or bulging lids, or any container that spurts liquid when you  open it. Discard any spoiled food, but never taste any food you think may have gone bad. Wipe off sticky containers and clean up crumbs and pills with a clear, vinegar, or soap and water.

About those dates stamped on cans and boxes: Use by means you have to eat the product by that date or get rid of it for food safety reasons. Best if used by simply means that the product is still safe to eat, but may not taste as good.

High acid canned foods have a shelf life to 12 to 18 months, while low acid canned foods can be kept for two to five years beyond their expiration dates, if the can is in good condition and has been properly stored in a cool, dry place.

Use this checklist for cleaning your pantry and refrigerator, and there are apps that can help you keep food safe in your kitchen, such as the FoodKeeper. You can also follow FSIS on Twitter or Facebook.

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