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September 2023

Home Food Safety Storage Tips

We cannot see, smell or taste harmful bacteria that may be in the food we eat. Foodborne illness can cause anyone to get sick; however, those with compromised immune systems and older adults are at a higher risk. Safe steps in food storage are key to keeping food safe.


CLEAN – Keep the refrigerator clean! On a regular basis check and discard old or outdated foods, clean shelving with soapy water, rinse and sanitize food contact surfaces. Use ready-made sanitizer or sanitizer wipes indicated as safe for food contact surfaces OR prepare a solution of chlorine (bleach) at 50 ppm. Mix 1/2 tsp. bleach in 4 cups of water.
CHILL – Refrigerate promptly. Cold temperatures slow the growth of bacteria. Keep the refrigerator temperature at or below 41°F and freezer below 10°F. This is one of the most effective ways to keep food safe. Use a refrigerator thermometer to check the temperature, and adjust the thermostat as needed. Always thaw or cool leftovers in the refrigerator, never leave on the counter. Avoid overloading the fridge, as it may impair the ability to function properly.
SEPARATE – Don’t cross contaminate. Always keep raw foods separate from ready to eat foods, and clean produce separate from uncleaned produce. Store eggs in their original carton on the bottom shelf with raw meats, seafood & poultry, below cooked foods.
ROTATE – Use older foods first (first in, first out). Date foods, especially leftovers. Use leftovers within 3 days.  Check dates on packaged foods. Remember, bacteria that causes foodborne illness cannot be seen, tasted or smelled.


  • Store bulk dry goods in containers with tight fitting lids, label and date.
  • If cans show signs of leaking or bulging, toss them out.
  • Store spices & oil away from heat and light.
  • Check dates on packaged foods.


Although many foods have dates, they are not required to by federal law. Manufacturer dates indicate when the quality is best. This is not an indicator of food safety. What do these terms mean?

  • “Sell-By” - how long the store can display the product.
  • “Best if Used By” or “Use-By” - when you should eat or freeze the food for best quality.
    Food may be good past this date if it was handled correctly. Keep in mind, as soon as the package is opened these dates do not apply.
  • Refrigerated foods generally are good for 3-7 days, some condiments and hard cheeses will last longer.  When it doubt, throw it out.
  • Freezer: if the food has freezer burn, is unlabeled, or in the freezer more than six-months, toss it out!
  • For more information contact the USDA Meat & Poultry Hotline at 1.800.535.4555 OR “ask Karen” at


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