Storing food correctly is one of the best ways to reduce the risk of it becoming contaminated and spoiling. Due to the different elements that make up all foods, particularly protein, there are different rules on how to store foods.
As a general rule – always keep cold food cold and hot food hot and when possible, foods should alway be kept in covered, air-tight containers off the floor. Keeping food at the correct temperature is essential when it comes to food storage. The growth rate of bacteria and other harmful contaminants is the highest in temperatures between 5 and 60°C, otherwise know as the ‘Danger-Zone’.
High-risk foods are foods that are high in protein, like meat, poultry, seafood, dairy products and eggs, and therefore must be kept below 5°C when chilled. If these foods are frozen they should not be allowed to reach above -15°C. When cooking these foods, they should reach a temperature of at least 75°C for a minimum of two minutes and not be allowed to drop below 60°C until they’re served.
Low-risk foods are foods which carry a reduced risk of becoming contaminated. Some examples of these are dry ingredients, such as rice, flour, cocoa and sugars; and foods that contain little if any protein, such as honey, sauces, oils and some condiments.
The preferable temperature at which to keep raw fruits and vegetables typically varies. Although chilling might help extend the life of the fruit or vegetable, many are better off kept at room-temperature.
However when low-risk foods are cooked, even if not together with high-risk foods, they will often become high-risk and therefore require refrigeration or freezing. Rice and stewed apples are two examples of this.
Also ensure that raw foods are stored separately from, and below, cooked foods to reduce the risk of juices dripping onto cooked food. And remember – IF IN DOUBT, THROW IT OUT.