Load Australian fridges with food, not beer, and keep it cool

In 2004, I spoke at a conference in Gold Coast, Australia. I did a TV bit on Good Morning Australia, or whatever the equivalent was to the U.S. Good Morning America about food safety. The chef at the conference center was with me, and well-versed in food safety. He had a digital tip-sensitive thermometer in his front pocket, which I asked to borrow for the interview. One of the PR types said something like, you can’t go on TV and talk about using thermometers, we have enough trouble getting Australians to store food in the fridge, which is largely used for beer.

A survey by the New South Wales Food Authority found that some household fridges were twice as warm as they should be after groceries were transferred into them and they took four hours to return to a safe temperature.

The authority’s chief scientist, Lisa Szabo, said while most fridges operated well, overloading them with food or warm products increased the chance of micro-organisms growing, as did the age of the fridge and the condition of the seals.

Of the 57 fridges checked in the study, almost 23 per cent had an average temperature of more than 5 degrees. Almost 9 per cent had an average of more than 6 degrees. The highest average temperature for one fridge was 9.5 degrees.

Salmonella infections rise in the hotter months of the year (it’s summer there right now, and everyone, including Katie, is at the beach).

NSW Health statistics show 372 people had salmonella infections in both January and February this year, compared with 129 in June and 101 in July.

Last December 240 people had salmonellosis compared with 103 in June last year.

One fridge in the study was loaded with drinks at 1.20pm, raising the temperature from 3.5 degrees to 14.5 degrees, and it took until 5.40pm for the fridge to return to 5 degrees. The study found that ”although [loading or cleaning] is unavoidable, limiting the duration or frequency of opening the refrigerator can minimize its impact on temperature rises’.’

As fridges across the state are filled with prawns, ham, champagne, desserts and fruit for Christmas celebrations, the Primary Industries Minister, Steve Whan, reminded consumers to keep the fridge out of the danger zone – between 5 and 60 degrees.