Proper Food Storage and Food Safety

Store Food Properly to Prevent A Major Food Safety Risk

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the improper storage of food is one of the major food safety risks that is easily preventable. I see individuals buying large amounts of food and wonder if they have the room or freezer space too properly and safely store the food they are purchasing. If food is not stored properly individuals are wasting money and putting themselves at risk of being food poisoned. Food poisoning is frequently caused by bacteria from foods that have been incorrectly stored, prepared, handled or cooked. Food contaminated with food poisoning bacteria may look, smell and taste normal. If food is not stored properly, the bacteria in it can multiply to dangerous levels.

Compare your food storage practices to the following guidelines to keep food safe: When you get home from the store, do you put foods that need to be refrigerated or frozen in the refrigerator or freezer immediately? Perishable foods like meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs should be refrigerated within two hours of purchasing or cooking. This is called the “two-hour rule.”

When the temperature outside is 90ºF or higher, these foods should be refrigerated within 1 hour. Foods should be kept out of the temperature danger zone between 40ºF and 140ºF. In this zone pathogens grow well. Food must be stored in a manner that minimizes microbial growth. Cooked food should be stored in the refrigerator below 41°F or in the freezer below 0°F. Because refrigeration does not completely eliminate the potential growth of pathogenic bacteria, leftover food stored in the refrigerator should be consumed or discarded within 3 to 5 days.

Expiration dates for foods should also be checked regularly. Frozen food should be thawed either in the refrigerator until ready, under cold running water (below 70°F), or in a microwave oven. Raw foods and cooked foods should be stored separately in the refrigerator in order to prevent cross-contamination between the two. Furthermore, each item should be covered or wrapped.

Four Steps to Keep Food Safe

Step 1: Clean: Wash hands and surfaces often.

Step 2: Cook: Cook foods to proper temperatures.

Step 3: Chill: Refrigerate foods promptly.

Step 4: Separate: Do not cross-contaminate.

Fresh Fruits & Vegetables Storage

Store fruits and vegetables (except bananas, potatoes, and tomatoes) in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator, and keep your refrigerator at or below 40°F. Bananas, potatoes, and tomatoes store best at room temperature. It is best to store fruits separate from vegetables.

Fresh Fruit
1–2 days Strawberries, raspberries, cherries
2–4 days Apricots, bananas (room temperature), blueberries, nectarines, peaches, pears, plums, melons (cantaloupe, honeydew, watermelon, etc.)
1–2 weeks Grapes, citrus fruits, cranberries
3 weeks Apples
Fresh Vegetables
1–2 days Corn on the cob, greens (spinach, kale, collards, etc.)
2–3 days Bok choy, mushrooms, okra, tomatoes (or until ripe; store at room temperature)
3–5 days Asparagus, bell pepper, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cucumber, eggplant, peas, green onion, summer squash
1 week Beans (snap or wax), celery, salad greens
1–2 weeks Cabbage, beets, iceberg lettuce, radishes
2–3 weeks Carrots, parsnips, rutabagas, turnips
3–4 weeks Potatoes, sweet potatoes (store potatoes at room temperature)
Milk Products, Eggs, and Deli Meat Storage
Milk Products, Eggs, and Deli Meat
3–5 days Sliced deli meat (once package is opened)
1 week Milk, cottage cheese
1–2 weeks Yogurt
3–4 weeks Hard cheese
3–5 weeks Eggs, fresh, in shell
Meat and Poultry

Meats and poultry should be stored in the refrigerator at 40 °F or in the freezing at 0 °F or below (not 32 °F) to keep from spoiling. Refer to United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service “Keep Food Safe! Food Safety Basics”

Tip on refreezing meat and poultry: Meat and poultry defrosted in the refrigerator may be refrozen before or after cooking. If thawed by other methods, cook before refreezing.

Remember to buy only the amount of food you need and have room to store.

For more information contact your local UF/IFAS Extension Office

UF/IFAS Extension EDIS publication on “Food Storage”:



Posted: March 25, 2020

Category: Food Safety, Fruits & Vegetables, Health & Nutrition, UF/IFAS Extension
Tags: Bacteria, Cross Contamination, Fight Bac, Food Safety, Food Temperature, Health And Nutrition, Health And Wellness, Healthy Eating, Nutrition, Preventing Bacteria, Safe Food, UF/IFAS Extension

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