Did you know that you play an important role in “cold chain management?” Without your participation in the cold chain, the safety of the food you eat cannot be assured.
But wait a minute, you say – I have no idea what it means that I have a role in “cold chain management” and why it’s important. Help!
The Partnership for Food Safety Education will get you up to speed. First, the harmful bacteria that cause food poisoning thrive and grow at warmer temperatures. When you leave food out too long at room temperature, bacteria like Salmonella Enteritidis, Escherichia coli O157:H7, and Campylobacter grow to dangerous levels that can make you sick. Bacteria grow most rapidly between 40° F and 140° F and can double in number in as little as 20 minutes. We call the range between 40° F and 140° F the “Danger Zone.”
Cold chain management includes the means used to ensure a constant temperature for food products from the time the product is manufactured through and including the time it is for sale at your favorite food retailer. Like a relay race, your role is to take the baton (the chilled food) from the retailer, and ensure the cold chain is maintained for safety. Your goal is to keep perishable foods at 40° F or below until you are ready to eat, cook or freeze the food Here’s your consumer cold chain plan of action:
- Refrigerate perishable foods as soon as possible, always within two hours after purchase or delivery. If you’re someplace that’s 90° F or hotter (including in your car), make that one hour.
- Transport coolers in the air conditioned passenger compartment, not in a hot trunk.
- Keeping a constant home refrigerator temperature of 40° F or below is one of the most effective ways to reduce the risk of foodborne illness. Use an appliance thermometer to be sure the temperature is consistently 40° F or below.
- Remember, after having a meal or preparing food, your leftovers should go into the refrigerator or the freezer within two hours.
- Use, discard or freeze your refrigerated leftovers within three to four days. Some harmful bacteria can continue to grow at cool temperatures, so keeping leftovers too long can increase the risk of illness.
- Ready-to-eat products that will not be cooked or heated before consumption need special care. Examples of these foods are table-ready salads (like pasta salads, chicken salads, vegetable salad) and deli meats.
Are you ready to handle the perishable foods hand-off? Be knowledgeable about your part in the cold chain! For all the best tips for home food safety get the Fight BAC!® basic brochure here.
Partnership for Food Safety Education