When it comes to fresh food, health and hygiene are extremely important. Most food contains harmful bacteria which can only be killed off or kept at a stable state by keeping the food chilled. When exposed to warm temperatures bacteria multiply at alarming rates and this can increase the risk of contracting food poisoning and serious illnesses. But simply keeping food in a fridge is not enough the fridge has to be at the correct temperature.
How cold should my fridge be?
The Food Standards Agency recommends that you keep your refrigerator at or below 5C (41F) in order to prevent the bad bacteria growth on fresh foods that can cause serious health issues. However, different foods react differently to warm and cold temperatures. You should always check the packaging for specific information, but this guide should be helpful:
Fruit and vegetables: Keeping fruit and veg in a fridge can extend its life and can also retain its quality. Fruit and veg should be kept in the bottom section of the fridge in a drawer, if available, or just above the raw products. Keeping them at slightly warmer temperatures (about 4-5C) will avoid freezing which can affect the taste.
Meat, Fish and poultry: Meat and fish should be kept below other ready to eat products to prevent the transfer of bacteria from raw food to ready to eat items. As the raw food is going to be cooked, the bacteria will be mostly killed off (chilling just keeps the bacteria at a safe level and prevents it from multiplying), but this is not the case with ready to eat products. 1-4C is the optimum temperature.
Other fresh food: Other fresh food such as milk, yoghurts and cooked meats can be kept on the top shelves of the fridge at temperatures just above freezing to maintain their flavor and quality. These foods will not always need to be cooked before eating, so it is even more important they are kept at safe temperatures.
Nowadays most fridges come with internal temperature controls to ensure that the temperature of your fridge remains constantly cold enough for the volume of food within. However, as with all kitchen appliances, fridges can occasionally becoming defective or faulty, especially if they are overcrowded with food. If you suspect this is the case it is handy to have a fridge thermometer on standby. Similarly, if you are unable to change an old or unreliable fridge (for example where the fridge is part of the inventory on a leased property) a fridge thermometer can monitor whether or not the fridge is working correctly.
Manual Bulb Thermometer for Fridges
Traditional, manual fridge thermometers work by putting small amounts of mercury or alcohol into a glass tube. The liquid expands when it is warm and shrinks when it gets colder. This means the liquid is pushed up or falls down the tube depending on the temperature. There is a scale on the tube, and you to read the temperature based on the height the liquid is at. Although pretty accurate, these thermometers are open to being misread, as you need to be at a height parallel with the thermometer and must round the number up or down depending on the scale.
Manual Spring Loaded Thermometer for Fridges
Spring loaded thermometers work similarly to bulb thermometers, except that it is a metal spring which expands or contracts with varying temperatures. The spring pushes a pointer left or right on a gauge. The scale on the gauge is often larger and easier to read than on a bulb thermometer but still leaves room for human error and requires you to be on the same level as the thermometer to ensure a more accurate reading. Spring thermometers also tend to be less accurate than bulb or digital thermometers.
Digital Thermometers for Fridges
Digital thermometers usually use mechanical devices called thermistors to calculate temperature and are much more accurate than manual, particularly spring loaded, thermometers leaving less room for human error as the numbers are presented in a clear and easy to read format and present a more exact temperature (usually to two decimal places). In order to avoid the thermometer being exposed to colder temperatures, digital thermometers usually sit outside the fridge and have a probe attached which can be placed within the fridge. This makes it easy to move if you think a particular shelf is much colder or warmer, if you need to reposition the contents of the fridge or just to lift the thermometer to eye height to read. The best digital thermometers include alarm systems which can warn you about large rises and falls in temperature that may cause damage to your food.
Fridge Thermometers for Businesses
If you run a business it is even more important that you regularly check the temperature of your fridges and cold areas. This should be done manually and in addition to any automatic chiller alarm systems already in place. Use a digital thermometer for accuracy and check the temperatures several times a day. Always ensure you are complying to company and industry policy regarding temperature checking and are observing regulations regarding other aspects of the cold chain (e.g. ensuring food is not kept out of cold-stores for more than an hour).
When you next buy a new domestic fridge, opt for one with an integrated fridge thermometer and invest in a good quality digital thermometer preferably with an alarm. This will ensure your food lasts as long as possible without causing possible health risks to yourself or your family. To view a range of fridge thermometers and other kitchen accessories available to buy online, please visit Barnitts Home and Garden at www.barnitts.co.uk.