Whether you’re hosting a gathering or preparing a midweek meal, you’re bound to have leftovers. To prevent contamination or poisoning, safe food storage is vital. Depending on the type, food should be stored in your fridge, freezer or cupboards. Here are some useful storage tips to guarantee food safety.

1. Storing perishable items

To prevent bacteria growth, perishable items should be stored in the fridge. As a guide, these include cooked food, food with a use-by date and ready-to-eat meals (i.e. desserts or cooked meats).

2. Keep your fridge cool

If your fridge is not cold enough, food poisoning bacteria will flourish. So, it must always be kept at the optimum temperature (i.e. between 0 and 5 degrees celsius). Are you unsure how to work your fridge’s temperature dial? If so, simply purchase a fridge thermometer to ensure food is stored at the right temperature. Here are some basic tips to store food in the fridge safely:

• Ensure the fridge door is closed when not in use

• Give food time to cool down before placing it in the fridge

• Turn the temperature of your fridge down once it is full to maintain a safe temperature

3. Storing food in the fridge

To stop bacteria growth, remember:

• Food that has a ‘keep refrigerated’ label must be kept cool. Fresh food without this label is likely to quickly expire, so store it in the fridge and eat within two days.

• When preparing food, ensure it’s kept out of the fridge as briefly as possible. This is especially important in warm weather.

• If you’ve prepared food (i.e. cold dish or sandwich) and don’t plan to eat it immediately, keep it in the fridge.

• If you have guests, keep food in the fridge until people are ready to eat (it shouldn’t be left out for over four hours).

4. Storing meat

It’s vital to store meat safely to prevent bacterial growth. Remember to:

• Keep poultry and raw meat in clean, sealed containers on the bottom shelf of your fridge. This ensures it will not drip onto other foods.

• Separate meat from other foods.

• Don’t consume meat after its ‘use by’ date, and follow all storage instructions on the label.

5. Storing food in the freezer

As long as it remains frozen, food can be stored in your freezer for years. However, if frozen for too long, the taste and texture will change. To ensure these aren’t compromised, check food labels or your freezer’s manual.

You can freeze most cooked or raw foods, provided:

• It’s frozen before the ‘use by’ date

• You follow all freezing and thawing instructions on the label

• Thaw it in the fridge. Or, if eating right away, thaw it in the microwave

• Use it within two days of defrosting

• Heat food until it is evenly cooked through

6. Storing dry food

Many foods don’t need to be placed in the fridge for safe storage. These include rice, pasta, flour, many kinds of drinks, unopened jars and tins. They must be stored carefully, however.

• Store food in containers or sealed bags. This will keep food fresh and prevent any contamination.

• Don’t store food in containers that have been used for other purposes.

• Only reuse plastic water bottles that can be cleaned

• Ensure food is stored in a dry, warm environment (i.e. pantry or cupboards)

7. Covering food with cling wrap

Cling wrap is an effective way to protect your food. However, it must be used correctly. Check the box to see which materials it can be used with. When using cling wrap, remember:

• Don’t use it on surfaces where it can melt into the food (i.e. in the oven or on the stove)

• Cling film can be used in the microwave, provided it doesn’t touch the food

• Cling wrap can only touch high-fat foods (i.e. cheese, raw, fatty meats, pies, fried meats, pastries and cakes)

8. Covering food with aluminium foil

Aluminium foil is quite useful to wrap or cover foods. However, it shouldn’t be used to store acidic foods, as it can dramatically compromise their taste. These include:

• Rhubarb

• Tomatoes

• Cabbage

• Soft fruit.

For more handy advice on safe food storage, contact the friendly team at the Australian Institute of Accreditation today.