Use teamwork to keep office fridge clean
May 7, 2012 5:00PM
Updated: June 10, 2012 8:02AM
Spring has long been the time of year for annual spring cleaning projects around the home. When it comes to safe food handling, however, everything that comes in contact with food must be kept clean all year long — including the refrigerator.
You probably keep your refrigerator at home clean, but the office refrigerator may be a problem because it’s typically a shared responsibility. Here are some tips that may help.
■ Refrigeration slows bacterial growth. Bacteria exist everywhere in nature. They are in the soil, air, water, and the foods we eat. When they have nutrients (food), moisture and favorable temperatures, they grow rapidly, increasing in numbers to the point where some types of bacteria can cause illness.
■ Bacteria grow most rapidly in the range of temperatures between 40 and 140 F, the “danger zone,” some doubling in number in as little as 20 minutes. A refrigerator set at 40 F or below will protect most foods.
■ Appliance thermometers for refrigerators are specifically designed to provide accuracy at cold temperatures and can be purchased at the local hardware store.
Keep it clean
■ If your office doesn’t already have a schedule for cleaning, why not make it a habit to throw out perishable foods left in the refrigerator at least once a week? A general rule of thumb for refrigerator storage for cooked leftovers is four days.
■ Wipe up spills immediately before they turn into a major cleaning job. Clean surfaces thoroughly with hot, soapy water; then rinse.
■ To keep the refrigerator smelling fresh and help eliminate odors, place an opened box of baking soda on a shelf. Avoid using solvent cleaning agents, abrasives, and all cleansers that may impart a chemical taste to food or ice cubes, or cause damage to the interior finish of the refrigerator. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
Share the responsibility
■ Do you feel like you are the only one concerned about the cleanliness of the refrigerator? Make it a food safety issue! Not everyone may realize the importance of keeping all food contact surfaces, like the refrigerator, clean. Because bacteria are everywhere, cleanliness is a major factor in preventing foodborne illness.
Consult the manufacturer’s use and care manual for the best advice for your model of microwave oven. Some manufacturers recommend unplugging the microwave before cleaning it to minimize the possibility of electric shock. If you can’t locate the manual, follow these general instructions.
■ Remove spatters and spills as they occur so food residue won’t become dried on.
■ Wipe with a soft cloth or clean paper towel dampened with warm water.
■ For heavier soil, use baking soda, a mild soap, or dishwashing liquid.
■ Do not use steel wool, scouring pads, abrasive cleaners, or oven cleaners.
■ To remove food odors or loosen baked-on food residue, mix 6 tablespoons of baking soda or 1/2 cup lemon juice with 1 cup of water in a microwave-safe glass measure. Microwave the mixture until it boils. Then leave the mixture in the microwave without opening the door until the mixture cools. The steam will help loosen food residue and remove odors. Wipe the surfaces with a soft cloth or paper towel.