Cami Wells: Keeping your food safe: Tips for refrigerator safety

Did you know that at room temperature, bacteria that cause foodborne sickness can double every 20 minutes?

Chilling foods to proper temperatures is one of the best ways to slow the growth of these bacteria. Your kitchen refrigerator is one of your most powerful tools for safeguarding yourself and your family against foodborne illness.

Cami Wells

Cami Wells

To ensure that your refrigerator is working effectively, check to make sure its temperature is at or below 40 degrees F. Given that few refrigerator controls show actual temperatures, it is best to use a cost-effective freestanding appliance thermometer to monitor the temperature and adjust the setting of the refrigerator as needed. Buy one for the fridge, one for the freezer, and check them frequently.

In addition to keeping the temperature in your fridge at 40 degrees F, here are additional precautions you can take to keep your refrigerated foods as safe as possible:

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Refrigerate food promptly. Refrigerate or freeze meat, poultry, eggs, seafood and other perishables within two hours of cooking or purchasing. Refrigerate within one hour if the temperature outside is above 90 degrees F.

Avoid overpacking. Refrigerated foods must have enough space for cold air to circulate around them to maintain proper chilling.

Clean up spills immediately. In addition to reducing the growth of Listeria bacteria (which can grow at refrigerated temperatures), cleaning spills — particularly drips from thawing meats — will prevent cross-contamination, where bacteria from one food spread to another.

Keep it covered. Store refrigerated foods in covered containers or sealed storage bags. Leftovers should be used within three to four days.

Check dates on foods. Discard food that has passed its “use by” date. If you are unsure or the food appears questionable, the general rule is: “When in doubt, throw it out.”


Pork Rice Bowls

1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon ginger powder

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 cup low-fat sour cream

1-2 teaspoons Sriracha sauce

1 jalapeño pepper (optional), sliced

1 cup pickled vegetables or kimchi (optional)

Wash hands with soap and water. Clean cucumber, carrots and pepper by scrubbing with a clean vegetable brush under running water; prepare as directed. Clean cilantro by gently rubbing under cold running water; prepare as directed.

In a large skillet, brown ground pork until internal temperature reaches 160 degrees F when measured with a food thermometer. Drain fat.

In a small bowl, combine soy sauce, corn starch, ginger powder, garlic powder and sugar. Add to cooked meat and mix well. Cook for 1 minute or until the meat is coated and the sauce has thickened.

Divide rice into 6 bowls. Top with meat, cucumber, carrot, jalapeño, and cilantro. Add pickled vegetables, such as pickled daikon radish, carrots or kimchi, if desired. Drizzle with spicy sour cream and enjoy!

Store leftovers in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to four days.

Nutrition information per serving: Calories 330, total fat 10g, saturated fat 2.5g, cholesterol 60mg, total carbohydrates 33g, fiber 3g, total sugars 4g, includes 1g added sugars, protein 29g, vitamin d 0%, calcium 6%, iron 10%, potassium 10%.

Cami Wells is an Extension Educator for Nebraska Extension in Hall County. Contact Cami by phone at 308-385-5088, by email at or visit the Hall County website at

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