Food Storage—Keep It Clean

    “Food Storage—Keep It Clean,” Ensign, Feb. 1975, 59

    Food Storage—Keep It Clean

    Someone recently wrote me that he had had a two-year food supply for over 15 years. He asked if I thought it would still be good. It was some kind of a concentrate packed in foil; when he examined it, it was found to be full of worms.

    The United States Food and Drug Administration recommends that your food supply be able to pass the same inspection required of industry. Check these items:

    1. Do you have any food stored under the sink? Are there sacks of potatoes, onions, canned goods, flour, or any other food there? If so, you are already in violation. Food stored in these cabinets attracts insects and rodents that enter around openings in the pipes that are almost impossible to seal.

    2. What about the open surfaces in the kitchen? Do you have an open bottle of milk, thawing meat, or the frozen leftovers for tonight’s dinner sitting on a counter top? Again, you are in violation. It takes only seven hours at room temperature for one bacterium to multiply to over two million. These things should thaw in the refrigerator and remain there until used.

    You probably thought refrigeration would destroy most bacteria. Not true. Refrigeration slows bacterial growth if temperatures are right, but it does not stop it. Almost all refrigerators have bacteria growing in the box, so open dishes easily become contaminated. Some foods deteriorate faster than others in the refrigerator and should not be kept for more than one or two days. Such foods include gravy, stuffing, broths or soups, potato and macaroni salads, poultry, fish, liver, kidney, giblets, and brain. The temperature in a refrigerator should run about 40 degrees fahrenheit (18 degrees centigrade) and should not go over 45 degrees fahrenheit (21 degrees centigrade). The freezer should be at about 0 degrees fahrenheit (-32 degrees centigrade). Make sure the door gaskets don’t leak. Keep the freezer and refrigerator clean, and wipe with a good disinfectant from time to time.

    3. What about the breadbox? Bread normally keeps fresher at room temperature than it does in the refrigerator, but mold grows faster at room temperature. If you bake your own bread it is even less protected against mold. Keep bread frozen until you are ready to use it. Then keep out only what you need at room temperature. Always keep food away from the stove, because higher temperatures increase spoilage.

    4. Now to the storeroom. Is it cool and free of dust? Do the cans or bottles stick to the shelves? Do any of the cans bulge, or are they dented? Are any of the foods labeled “refrigerate”? For example, some cheeses must be stored in the refrigerator, even though they come in cans. Dust may contain bacteria, so keep cans clean or wash them carefully before opening. Bulging, leaking, or dented cans are probably spoiled. Throw them out or return them to the store for replacement. Don’t taste food from these cans. It could be poisonous even though it tastes all right. Mark the date of purchase on cans, then rotate their use. And don’t store foods you don’t normally eat. Dr. Dean C. Fletcher, director, Section on Food Science, American Medical Association, and his wife, Ann