Saturday, April 13, 2013

Is Your Fridge A Safe Place to Store Your Food?

Last year we replaced our Samsung 7 cubit feet no-frost refrigerator with a General Electric 10 cubit feet manual defrost. We knew that switching from automatic to manual would be a bit of a hassle but we still went for it for the following reasons: 

1. A manual defrost fridge costs less vs. to the no-frost fridge;
2. It is more energy efficient
3. The system is less complicated so technical problems would also be less complicated compared to the no-frost type

We chose to buy from GE since they are better known for refrigerators compared to Samsung. You see, our old Samsung no-frost fridge was on top shape until my husband accidentally left it open while we were out the entire day. Since then, we had it repaired several times and payed a hefty amount for  the replacement parts and service. Another reason why we switched brands was because we were not happy with Samsung’s after sales service. Not only were they not able to detect the real cause of the breakdown, their response time was also slow and tedious. During these times that it was under maintenance, we lived on take out food and lukewarm drinking water. To minimize spoilage, we also had to pack the contents of our fridge and bring to a neighbor friend  each time it conked out. These series of unpleasant incidents made us realize how important a refrigerator is to any household, so much so when we had a baby. We couldn’t afford spoiling precious breast milk because of another refrigerator malfunction.
Our fridge could be considered the most important appliance in our house because we use it to store our food. Food being one of human’s basic need should not only be made available for consumption, it should also be properly stored.  Improper storage of food and lack of care for our refrigerators can cause bacteria to thrive in our food. In my Microbiology class in college, we studied different microorganisms that grow in different types of food – Salmonella, E. Coli and Listeria to name a few. These food-thriving bacteria are the common causes of food poisoning and other food-borne illnesses. Needless to say, proper care and maintenance of our fridge should be a top priority to ensure the safety of our household.
The reason why I chose to write about this topic is that I made the mistake of leaving the responsibility of caring for our fridge to our household help. Now that we don’t have one, I was obliged to take on this task. Just last week, I decided to do a general cleaning of our fridge. I wanted to do it the right way so I did some research online. If you have a manual defrost fridge like ours, thorough cleaning requires you to first defrost it. While a manual defrost fridge is more energy-efficient, allowing ice to accumulate could cause more problems for you. For one, when the ice thickens on the freezer walls, it can cause the plastic lining to break and may affect the piping. Secondly, thick ice can act as an insulator, which causes the refrigerator’s compressor to work double time. Lastly, defrosting the ice will allow you to clean up dirt, deposits and other liquids that has frozen with the water (this includes blood and juice spills from meats… eeww!) Defrosting should be done at least once or twice a year or as soon as you see ice thickens on the freezer. Following are some guidelines on how you can do your general cleaning:

1.  Schedule the time when you will clean your fridge so you can empty its contents
2. Temporarily store remaining contents in a cooler
3. To defrost, remove from power source and allow ice to melt on its own. Have clean absorbent cloths or paper towels ready to minimize leaks. Do not use sharp object to remove ice as this can damage the fridge walls
4. Remove all trays and wash with dishwashing soap and water. Use a sponge and dishwashing soap to clean the walls of the entire fridge. Rinse using clean damp cloth. Allow to air dry
5. All refrigerators come with a defrosted water tray. Make sure to clean and wash this as well

I only discovered about the defrosted water tray as I was cleaning our fridge myself. And was I shocked and disgusted to find very nasty things in there! Marked in the tray is a reminder that says “This tray evaporates defrosted water effectively. Please clean once a month.” I never even thought this part existed. Because this unit is not easily accessible, it can easily be missed out and neglected. I immediately disposed the ugly residue and disinfected it with Domex Bleach. It was indeed a learning experience for me. Disgusted as I am, I'm glad I discovered it before it became a livable place for an anaconda. Lol! Make sure you check out this part every time you do your cleaning. I definitely definitely have this on my list next time!

It is not enough to just do periodic general cleaning.  Maintaining cleanliness in your fridge at all times is a must. This will ensure that the contents of your food will be kept safe. It will also help you save time and effort in doing a thorough cleaning. Here are a few guidelines on how to keep your fridge clean all the time:

1.  Always make an inventory of your food. “FIRST IN FIRST OUT.” Use older items first before the new ones 
2. Throw away left over/ unused/ expired food items for more than 3-4 days. Molds and other microorganisms may grow in your food and may affect other items
3. Cover all food items to avoid spills and foul smells. Clean spills immediately to avoid staining
4.  Make sure your fridge is set to the right temperature. If you don’t have a fridge thermometer, now is the time to buy one
5. Keep food items organized. Do not mix raw, cooked and fresh items. When defrosting raw meat, keep them at the bottommost part to avoid its juices from mixing with other food items

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