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What's Growing in Your Office Refrigerator?

Posted by Joan Salge Blake  November 2, 2011 07:54 PM

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Warning: You may not want to eat lunch after you read this.

According to a recent American Dietetic Association and ConAgra Foods Home Food Safety Survey, while most workplaces have an employee refrigerator, more than 20 percent of those surveyed said that their office fridge is rarely or never cleaned. Another 18 percent of those surveyed were totally clueless about the cleaning schedule of their office communal refrigerator. Talk about taking your appetite away……


Feel free to email this blog to your office manager, but please make sure that you “cc” yourself on it as a reminder to peek inside your kitchen fridge when you get home as it may not be any cleaner. A research study of over 2,000 individuals showed that over 50 percent of those surveyed had not cleaned the inside of their home refrigerator for at least one month prior to the survey and only 10 percent use a refrigerator thermometer. Without a thermometer placed inside the refrigerator, consumers can’t be sure that the temperature is safely at 40 degrees F or below. The nasty bacteria that cause foodborne illness, better known as food poisoning, grow rapidly at temperatures above 40 degrees F. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 1 out of 6 Americans get food poisoning annually.


With this infrequent cleaning schedule and lack of thermometer usage, it shouldn’t be too surprising that another study found that over 70 percent of 147 home refrigerators tested had microbes growing behind these closed doors. (One can only imagine what the bacterial count of your office refrigerator may be.)


To keep your office and home refrigerator from becoming a science experiment, follow these tips from the USDA and HomeFoodSafety.org:


  • Weekly, throw out perishable foods that have been in the refrigerator for too long. Download this handy, dandy Leftovers Calculator as a guide as to when it’s time to toss these foods.
  • Wipe up spills immediately and clean the surfaces of the refrigerator with hot, soapy water regularly. Rinse with clean water.
  • Place a refrigerator thermometer in the middle to the front of a shelf to make sure that the temperature is at 40 degrees F or below.
  • Clean the outside of the refrigerator as well including the handle that gets touched countless times during the day. The front grill of the refrig should be dust- and lint-free to keep fresh air flowing to the condenser.

When was the last time your office refrigerator was cleaned out? Please post below.


Originally published on the blog Nutrition and You!.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

Joan Salge Blake, MS, RD, LDN, is a clinical associate professor and registered dietitian at Boston University in the Nutrition Program. Joan is the author of Nutrition &You, 2nd Edition, More »

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