It is essential to refrigerate or freeze perishable foods promptly. Perishable foods include those that are purchased refrigerated or frozen, as well as prepared foods, cooked foods and leftover foods. In addition, many foods that are shelf stable before opening, such as condiments and bottled salad dressing, become perishable and must be refrigerated once opened. Be sure to check the label.
Use the 2 Hour Rule both at home and while shopping. This rule states that all perishable foods must be refrigerated or frozen within 2 hours of purchase or preparation. If the weather is hot, more than 80ºF (27ºC) , reduce that time to 1 hour and use a cooler for perishable foods. Any perishable foods that have been left at room temperature for longer than these times should be discarded.
Refrigerator and Freezer Temperatures
Temperature control is an important aspect of food safety and food quality. For this reason, keep refrigerators and freezers set at proper temperatures. Temperatures should be checked using a refrigerator/freezer thermometer. Thermometers are readily available at grocery stores, hardware stores and kitchen shops.
Refrigerators should be set at less than 40ºF (4ºC). The temperature should be just above the point at which lettuce and other foods begin to freeze. Avoid overcrowding the refrigerator, as the cold air must be able to circulate freely.
Freezers should be set at 0ºF (-18ºC) or less. This very low temperature is necessary to stop bacterial growth. It is important to note that freezing food does not kill bacteria that were already present before freezing.
Freezing Combination Foods
ATCO Blue Flame Kitchen does not recommend freezing combination foods such as casseroles and soups that have been prepared using previously frozen cooked meat, fish, poultry, stock or vegetables. Combination foods that have been prepared using freshly cooked meat, fish, poultry, stock or vegetables may be frozen for up to 6 weeks. Freezer storage times are based on storage in a chest or upright freezer and not a refrigerator freezer compartment. To retain quality, all foods to be frozen should be packaged in freezer bags or rigid food-safe plastic containers.