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You might typically assume the automated temperature setting on your fridge will have been programmed to be most suitable to store food. However, consumer reports found this isn’t always the case, which can lead to food spoiling quicker, an increase in foodborne illness, and a heavy hit to your food bill. So what is the optimal temperature and how can you control it?
A miracle for food preservation, a fridge, at the right temperature, can keep items fresh for days and weeks at a time by slowing the growth of bacteria.
However, when temperatures rise to a certain point, bacteria will begin to fester and multiply and before you know it, food quality significantly reduces and even worse, the risk of foodborne illnesses prevails.
Like everything, there are optimal and disastrous environments for bacteria to survive and thrive, so what temperature should your fridge be to keep food fresh and largely bacteria-free longer?
What temperature should your fridge be?
According to the Government Food Standards Agency (FSA), the optimal temperature to keep your fridge is 5C and below. Anything above this can foster a breeding ground for some harmful bacteria.
This temperature is as close as you can get to freezing without actually freezing your food, making the environment far too cold for bacteria to function effectively.
The FSA said: “Most harmful bacteria will grow at temperatures above 8C and below 63C – this is known as the ‘Danger Zone’ for microbial growth.”
This means that not only should you desperately avoid creeping into these highs in the fridge, but advice also goes for defrosting foods, too.
The FSA said: “We advise the safest way to defrost food is in the fridge overnight.
It continued, “by defrosting in the fridge, your food should never enter the ‘Danger Zone’”, as the temperature environment in your fridge (if at 5C or below) won’t positively promote harmful bacteria growth.
If your fridge uses a number dial instead of a temperature reading to set the limits, use a thermostat to check it.
My fridge is below 5C but my food still spoils, what should I do?
If you find your fridge is already at optimum temperature but food still spoils quicker than usual, you could be overpacking it.
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The FSA advised: “Don’t overfill your fridge. Leaving space allows air to circulate and maintains the set temperature.
“If your fridge is looking full, take out items that don’t need to be chilled, such as beer.
“This will make room for the items that do need to be chilled for safety reasons, such as raw, ready-to-eat and cooked food.”
What temperature should a freezer be?
The optimum temperature to keep a freezer is around the -18C mark, but it can go as low as -25C and still function effectively.
These low temperatures will help delay chemical reactions within foods and put any bacteria that may be present on pause.
The FSA said: “The bacteria are still alive, but they stop growing or producing toxins, in effect pausing reactions.”
However, it should be noted that keeping your freezer at a too cold temperature isn’t always favourable either.
Increased energy to freeze will run up your utility bill, and can also cause food to lose moisture and flavour, so try to aim for the -18C mark.
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