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Food Safety and Storage   arrow

Proper food handling and storage helps maintain food quality and nutritional value of the foods you purchase, while reducing the chance of contracting a food borne illness caused by harmful bacteria. While shopping for food; avoid cross-contamination between potentially hazardous foods and fresh foods like fruits and vegetables. Place raw meat and poultry in individual plastic bags to prevent meat from contaminating foods that will be eaten without further cooking. Keep refrigerated and frozen items together so they remain cold and place these items in the coolest part of your car for the trip home. Consider using an insulated container to keep perishable food at 40°F or below during transport from store to home.

High Altitude Canning

Adjustments must be made because air is thinner at higher altitudes. Water will boil furiously at lower temperatures in high altitudes thus the processing time must be increased for boiling water bath canning. For pressure canning, the pressure is increased.

At Home

Food storage at home involves a clean refrigerator and freezer. Maintain the refrigerator between 35° and 40°F; the freezer temperature should be 0°F or below. Refrigerator temperatures slow the growth of microorganisms already present in food but do not destroy pathogenic or spoilage microorganisms. Freezing preserves food for extended periods because it prevents the growth of microorganisms, however, once thawed, microorganisms can begin to grow again. Food placement in the refrigerator affects air circulation so it is best to avoid overcrowding so that the cold air can circulate freely. Don’t stack foods tightly or cover refrigerator shelves with foil or any material that prevents air circulation from quickly and evenly cooling the food. Never defrost food at room temperature. Food must be kept at a safe temperature during thawing. There are three safe ways to defrost food: in the refrigerator, in cold water, and in the microwave. Food thawed in cold water or in the microwave should be cooked immediately.

Safe Serving

As a rule, never let raw meat, poultry, eggs, cooked food or cut fresh fruits or vegetables sit at room temperature more than two hours. Leaving food out too long at room temperature can cause bacteria to grow to dangerous levels that can cause illness. Bacteria grow most rapidly in the range of temperatures between 40°F and 140°F. This range of temperatures is often called the “Temperature Danger Zone”.  Therefore, it is important to keep cold food at 40°F or below and hot foods at 140°F or above.


Food Storage for Safety and Quality. CSU Ext. Fact Sheet 9.310

Food Safety and Inspection Service, Safe Food Handling. USDA

If Your Freezer Stops. CSU Ext. Fact Sheet 9.357