Consumers have a responsibility to make sure that they practice safe food habits at home. This is never more important than ever now, in the light of the listeria outbreak that has been haunting South Africa for more than a year now.
So what should you do if you think you have had products in your fridge which may have been be contaminated with listeria?
Contaminated food in your fridge - now what?
- Remove the product from your fridge and place it in a plastic bag and dispose of it immediately.
- Dispose of any uncovered foods which may have come into contact with the packaging of the product by wrapping it in a plastic bag before throwing it away.
- Wipe all spills and solids from your fridge with paper towels, and dispose of these carefully.
- Clean your refrigerator with warm soapy water thoroughly.
- Mix 1 teaspoon of unscented bleach to 1 litre of water. Put in a spray bottle, spray the surface, let it stand for 10 minutes, wipe with a clean paper towel. Let air dry. (Remember to use this bleach solution immediately as it becomes less effective of left to stand)
Remember that Listeria doesn't mind a little cold - it can grow in the fridge (epecially if the temperature is not low enough). So make sure to follow good fridge hygiene to avoid contamination.
Healthy fridge & food habits
- Keep your refrigerators cold! Below 4oC in the fridge & from -12oC to -18oC in the freezer section
- Don't pack your fridge too full - allow space for cold air to circulate
- Make sure foods do not leak juices onto other foods to avoid cross-contamination
- Clean your refrigerator and freezer regularly (especially spills from raw meats)
- Keep food in covered containers, or plastic wrap before placing it in the refrigerator
- Use pre-cooked and ready-to-eat foods quickly, don't keep them for too long
- Eat (or throw away) leftovers within 3 days
- Check expiry and use by dates on food - if it's past it's use by date, toss it away
- This use by date applies to frozen food too, so make sure you know the Shelf Life of your Fozen Food
- Use your nose - if it smells odd, don't take the risk, rather throw it out
In the fridge is better than out
It's very important that foods GET into the fridge quickly - take these instances for example:
- Groceries - no longer than 2 hours outside the fridge between shop & home (1 hour on a hot day)
- Leftovers - must be refrigerated within 2 hours of cooking
- Take-aways - eat them immediately, don't keep them at room temperature for longer than 2 hours
- Marinades - always marinate your foods in a container INSIDE the fridge - not out on the counter