Some foods need to be kept in the fridge to help stop germs from growing on them, such as milk, meat, ready meals, desserts, foods with a 'use by' date and food that says 'keep refrigerated' on the label.

Did you know? At ideal temperatures some food poisoning bugs can multiply every 10 minutes.

At ideal temperatures some food poisoning bugs can multiply every 10 minutes. This means that in just under 2 hours one thousand germs can become one million germs and this can cause food poisoning! That is why it is important to keep foods that need chilled in the refrigerator.

To help stop bugs from growing remember:

  • Keep your fridge at 5ºC or below. Use a fridge thermometer to check your fridge temperature as the numbers on the dial are not usually an indication of the temperature. Always check the handbook for your fridge to be sure.
  • Make a habit of throwing out food that has passed its ‘use-by’ date.
  • Clean the inside and the outside of the fridge regularly.
  • Make sure all foods are either wrapped or in covered containers before storing in the fridge.
  • Store leftovers in covered containers in the fridge and consume within 2-3 days.
  • Don’t put hot food in the fridge - let it cool first.
  • Do not overload your fridge. Overloading prevents circulation of cool air, which could mean that food is not kept cold enough.
  • Don’t clutter up the fridge. Leave space in the fridge for perishable foods.

Do you know where stuff should go in your fridge?

It's important that you store food in the correct place in your fridge to prevent germs from raw foods contaminating cooked/ready-to-eat foods.

This illustration shows where food should be stored in your fridge.

Remember the following points:

  • Store raw meat, poultry and fish in sealed containers on the bottom shelf of the fridge. This will stop them from touching or dripping onto other food and prevent the spread of harmful germs.
  • To thaw frozen meat, poultry or fish without spreading germs to other food in the fridge, place in a covered container on the bottom shelf or use a microwave on the ‘defrost’ setting.
  • Ready-to-eat food such as dairy products, cooked meats, leftovers, other packaged foods etc should all be kept covered on shelves above raw meat and poultry.

TIP: Safe storage of food in the fridge will help prevent harmful germs spreading from raw to ready-to-eat foods.

Freezing and Defrosting

Keep raw meat/poultry separate from other food when it is defrosting. This will prevent contamination of the other food with food poisoning bacteria.

It can be expensive buying a different set of ingredients for every meal, so it's a good idea to cook up a batch of food. After cooking, cool the food quickly (ideally within one to two hours), then freeze, in a freezer with no less than four stars, in serving-sized portions. It is recommended that you date code the portion with the date of cooking so that you know how long the food has been in the freezer. Your freezer should operate at a temperature of -18ºC.

Storage times will vary depending on the type of food and on your particular freezer. As a general rule freezers will have a star rating to indicate how long food can be safely stored:
* 1 week
** 1 month
*** 3 months
**** 3 months or longer

Batch cooked frozen foods should be thoroughly defrosted before cooking. It is recommended that food is defrosted in the fridge or in a microwave oven using the 'defrost' setting. Make sure that it is thawed right to the centre with no ice crystals remaining before cooking.