We all know how important it is to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables everyday. One of the easiest ways to do that is to keep the fridge produce drawers stocked with your family’s favorites . The problem arises with how most people maintain those drawers. The details of how a refrigerator is cleaned and its temperature, along with how food is prepared and stored were discussed by a panel of experts meeting in New Orleans this June.
Vegetable bins in home refrigerators contain the highest percentage of bacteria,” said Sandria Godwin, a food scientist with Tennessee State University and part of a four-member panel that presented its findings on consumer refrigeration trends.
“You don’t have to go to a party or a restaurant to get food poisoning,” she said. “We are all looking for someone to blame when it comes to food safety, but there are things we can do to reduce the risk, especially for high-risk groups such as the elderly, infants and children.”
Poor refrigerator cleaning, mixing unwashed vegetables with uncovered raw meats in the storage bins, failing to install a refrigerator thermometer, and not maintaining the recommended refrigerator temperature of 40 degrees are all food spoilers and bacteria multipliers.
While less scientific than some of the other findings, uncertain economic times have also forced consumers to view raising the temperature in the refrigerator as a way to save on their energy bill, panelists said. It has also made consumers less likely to throw away food that is past its recommended self date.
Consumers with a higher income are less likely to keep their refrigerator clean, Godwin said. She cited busy lifestyles and time constraints as the cause.
We have a big challenge because it’s hard to change behaviors,” said Danielle Schor, senior vice president of food safety with the nonprofit International Food Information Council in Washington, D.C.
“People think food-borne illness is something you just get over,” Schor said. “It’s not a stomach ache; it can cause a lot of damage, but people don’t always see the immediate consequence so they don’t realize the danger.”
The 68th Annual Meeting and Expo of The Institute of Food Technologists, has attracted about 15,000 food scientists and others in the food technology industry, including representatives from the academic, private, nonprofit and government sectors.