If it’s been a while since you’ve cleaned your fridge, you have a great opportunity to do so on November 15th for National Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day. 1 in 6 Americans get sick from contaminated food each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Food poisoning – or foodborne illness – can ruin your day, and in extreme cases it can end with a trip to the hospital. It feels great to get rid of old food and have a squeaky clean fridge, but cleaning out your refrigerator can also help prevent food poisoning.
The hidden dangers of a dirty fridge
What happens when there’s a spill in your refrigerator? If it’s a big one, you probably stop to clean it up. Smaller splashes and spills might not get the same treatment, however. Maybe you plan on getting around to cleaning and disinfecting later but forget, or maybe you just don’t worry about them at all.
Juices from raw meat, spilled dairy, or cracked eggs can contaminate surfaces in your refrigerator. Germs and bacteria can thrive on surfaces in your fridge even when there’s no visible evidence of contamination. This become an even bigger issue when you store things like produce and eggs directly on shelves and in drawers.
Prevent contamination and get rid of spoiled food
National Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day is the perfect time to get your fridge cleared before the holiday season.
- Start by clearing off and sanitizing a countertop. This gives you a surface to place the food from your refrigerator on as you clean.
- Empty refrigerator shelves, compartments, and drawers, wiping down containers as you go.
- Check expiration dates and get rid of old, moldy, or expired food when you clean out your refrigerator. Throwing away spoiled items makes sure that you don’t accidentally serve or cook with food that can make people sick.
- Once your refrigerator is empty, you can start cleaning. Start from the top and clean your way down as you go. Wipe any crumbs or food particles into a trash can, and then disinfect each surface in your refrigerator.
- If your refrigerator has removable drawers or compartments, take them out and wash them in the sink. For a truly deep clean, vacuum out each nook and cranny, and vacuum beneath your fridge.
- Go ahead and stock up on healthy produce after you clean out your refrigerator. Fruits and vegetables are a staple of a healthy diet, and you need to have a good variety of fruits and veggies.
A clean fridge is a good place to start
Cleaning your refrigerator and keeping your food safely stored and contained doesn’t always ensure your food is safe to eat. Preventing foodborne illnesses requires proper food safety.
The CDC recommends four steps for food safety: Clean, Separate, Cook, and Chill. You can learn more about these steps here.
Some people are at a higher risk for food poisoning: adults over 65 years of age, children under 5 years of age, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems.
Remember that some foods are contaminated before they ever enter your home. Cook meat to safe temperatures and always wash produce before eating it, especially if you don’t plan on cooking your fruits or veggies.
Know the symptoms of food poisoning, and call your doctor if you experience severe symptoms.