Even after you’ve cleaned your hands and surfaces thoroughly, bacteria can still be spread if food isn't stored correctly and used within a certain amount of time - especially if the food carries a 'use by' date.
Your fridge can help to keep foods fresh and safe to eat for longer as the cold temperature slows the growth of bacteria.
Your fridge temperature needs to be at 5C or below to be most effective.
What you can store
Foods labelled with a 'use by' or 'keep refrigerated' label can be stored in the fridge. This includes:
- dairy produce - such as milk, cheese and butter
- raw and cooked meat
- fresh fruit and vegetables
- ready meals
Eggs are best stored in the fridge as they are kept at a constant temperature. You can safely store a boiled egg in the fridge for a couple of days.
You can also freeze boiled and raw (unshelled) eggs.
Storing raw meat and fish
To stop bacteria from spreading, store raw meat, fish and poultry in sealed containers on the bottom shelf of your fridge and never eat after it's "use-by" date.
Storing cooked and "ready to eat" foods
Foods that have been cooked or labelled "ready to eat" - such as cooked meats, pastries and cheese - should always be kept separate from raw meats.
To prevent bacterial growth, cooked foods should be cooled to room temperature and refrigerated within 2 hours. Splitting cooked food into smaller portions can help it to cool quicker. Never put hot foods in the fridge or freezer.
The colder temperatures make hot food cool unevenly, increasing the risk of food poisoning.
Most types of foods can be frozen, however, the extreme cold can affect the quality of foods with a high water content - such as fresh fruit and salad vegetables (cucumber, tomatoes). These foods are still fine to cook with but are better eaten from the fridge.
As the cold air will cause foods to dry out, always store frozen foods in airtight containers or freezer bags.
Freezing meat and fish
You can freeze all types of meat, fish and poultry as long as:
- it's within its use by date
- you wrap it properly to prevent damage from dehydration and oxidation - known as "freezer burn"
Frozen meat and fish will keep and be safe to eat for a long time, however, you should try to eat these foods within 3 to 6 months as the quality can be affected. Adding a label and date to frozen meat and fish can help with this.
You should defrost meat and fish thoroughly before cooking. Once defrosted these foods need to be eaten or thrown away within 24 hours.
A microwave is a great way to thaw these foods if you intend to cook it straight away. If you have more time, put it at the bottom of your fridge overnight.
Raw meat, fish and poultry can't be frozen again after they've been defrosted.
Cooked meat, fish and poultry can be frozen as long as they've been cooled. You should only refreeze these foods once after cooking as the more times you cool and reheat food, the higher the risk of food poisoning.
Foods stored in the freezer, such as ice cream and frozen desserts, should not be returned to the freezer once they have thawed.