Unveiling Important Facts about Refrigerator Bacteria

We are all aware that hot temperatures are what bacteria craves the most to survive and multiply, but what if there are bacteria that can actually thrive in cold conditions?

Refrigerator Bacteria

Most of us have the impression that storing foods in the refrigerator is the best way to keep it safe from bacterial contamination, but what we’re not aware of is that there are also types of bacteria that can grow in cold temperatures.

Psychrophilic bacteria, otherwise known as psychrophiles, are bacteria that are able to grow at low-temperatures. These bacteria, which are also found in glaciers at Antarctic and Arctic continents, are the same types that can grow inside the refrigerator.

According to studies, psychrophiles came from either improperly packaged foods (raw meat, milk, fish, poultry, etc) or have already been growing inside your refrigerator due to improper sanitation and inappropriate refrigerator temperature. These types of bacteria include Coliforms, Vibrio, Pseudomonas, and Listeria, which are all in fact quite harmful to the human health.

What are the harmful effects of Refrigerator Bacteria?

Even though some of these bacteria are not harmful by itself alone, thus when it enters the human body (through eating foods contaminated with it) it releases toxins which are very harmful to the health. Psychrophilic bacteria may cause harmful health conditions such as sepsis, diarrhea, meningitis, dysentery, food poisoning, urinary tract infections, and gastrointestinal infections.

How to Prevent Refrigerator Bacteria from growing and spreading inside the fridge?

  • To prevent the growth of these types of cold-loving bacteria inside your refrigerator, you should always make sure that your fridge is at 40°F or lower.
  • Avoid opening the refrigerator door for unnecessary reasons as it may actually let the bacteria enter your fridge.
  • Always clean and sanitize your refrigerator regularly using antibacterial bleach cleaners.
  • Clean spills right away and organize the food placement inside your fridge. The best practice is to place raw meat, poultry, or fish at the lower part of the shelves to avoid its juices from mixing into other foods.
  • It is also strongly advised to place raw food into tight-sealed containers to avoid food contamination.
  • Always separate raw foods from cooked ones.
  • Ensure also that you dispose old foods to avoid cross contamination. Check for discoloration or molds in foods and immediately dispose them. Molds are often signs of bacterial growth.

To sum it all up, despite the fact that bacteria can actually grow inside the refrigerator too, there are plenty of ways to counterpart it. And the main solution to keep your foods safe, clean, bacteria-free is to always maintain cleanliness in your surroundings. Following the preventive tips above will also give you a head start.

Remember, prevention is always better than any cure.

How to Know When a Food is Still Good to Eat

Food labels are generally marked on foods to provide plenty of helpful information to consumers, but most doesn’t really know what’s the meaning behind some labels including the “eat-by” and “best-before” dates.

Eat-by-date Vs Best-before-date

Eat-by-date, sometimes also termed as Use-by-date, is labelled on foods that go off quickly. This means that these foods must be eaten or be thrown away by the labelled date. Examples of these foods include meats products (shaved meat, sliced ham), smoked fish, milk and pre-made salads. Even if the food looks perfectly good, it is extremely advisable not to eat or drink them after their eat-by-date. Check also its included instructions in the label because some eat-by foods usually spoil faster when not stored properly. Hence, consuming the food while not following its eat-by-date or the additional instructions may lead to food poisoning or other health problems.

On the other hand, best-before-dates are labelled by manufacturers to suggest when the food quality is expected to mitigate or when the food will spoil. Foods that are labelled with best-before can legally still be sold and eaten as long as it is not damaged because its label only indicates that the food may have lost some of its quality after the marked date.

How do you know if your food is still safe to eat?

Majority probably have the impression that foods that still looks good are fine to eat, but that may not necessarily be the case. There are basically around 48 million people each year who suffered from digestive problems due to food-borne illnesses.

While it may be true that rots and molds are some of the basic signs when a food goes bad, there are also other instances where it is unsafe to eat even if it still looks great. Knowing how long you can keep a food may not be as easy as it looks like because there are conditions which can greatly affect the food longevity.
Here are some tips to that will help you decide whether a food is still safe to eat.

Always check the food expiration date. Don’t be deceived on how good the food still appears to be because not all instances that it is safe from food-borne disease.

Familiarize with your food. This means that you should at least have the basic understanding of the food you eat including its main contents such as sugar or protein. Generally, foods that have more protein spoil faster compared to foods with more sugar or sodium.

Stick with the safety temperature guidelines of foods. Bacteria grow and spread faster in temperature rooms compared to low-temperature conditions. This is primarily the reason why some foods get contaminated when exposed too long on room temperature.

Look. Discoloration of food is the basic signs of rotting. Seeing blue spots in bread or green color in meats are signs that it is not safe to consume anymore.

Smell. Other than discoloration, the smell of the food can also give you a heads up if it’s still good to eat or not.

Keep it clean. Make sure that the area where you store your food is always clean and well-sanitized. This is one of the best ways to keep your food away from harmful bacteria that causes food-poisoning.

The Reason Why Refrigerator Bacteria are Harmful to Human Health

Who would have thought that the refrigerator, which is considered as one of the safest storages for food, may be a breeding ground of some harmful bacteria? Yes, despite the fact that majority of bacteria grow in high temperatures, there are also some that grows in cold conditions.

What are Psychrophilic Bacteria?

Psychrophilic bacteria or psychrophiles are a type of bacteria that can grow in refrigerated temperatures.  The psychrophiles found in refrigerators are actually the same microbes that can be found in Arctics and Antartic glaciers. The reason why these bacteria are cold-resistant unlike their hot-lover relatives is because they contain an enzyme that none of the others have. These microorganisms are commonly responsible for faster spoilage of foods in refrigerators and may also cause contamination to some foods.

How can these bacteria be harmful to human health?

Improper packaging or processing of foods (which may include raw meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and milk) can cause it to be contaminated with psychrophilic bacteria. Unhygienic refrigerators and freezers are also some of the possible breeding places of these cold-loving microbes.

As such, when your food gets contaminated with these bacteria and you eat it, the bacteria will grow inside your body and thus present pathogenic conditions. Some bacteria may not really be harmful alone unless when they expose toxins into food which causes food poisoning. Pseudomonas, Coliforms, Listeria, Vibrio, and Molds such as Cladosporium and Penicillium are some examples of bacteria that are quite harmful when it is inside of the human body. Salmonella is also a common type of bacteria that contaminates refrigerated foods and may cause serious illness.

Psychrophilic bacteria usually cause conditions such as sepsis, meningitis, diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, gastrointestinal infections, dysentery, and food poisoning. Immunocompromised people (like pregnant women, HIV or AIDs patient, and those who are undergoing chemotherapy treatment), newborns, and likewise those who have pre-existing health problems, are just some of those who have greater risks of developing harmful conditions caused by these bacteria.

Our body’s immune system on the other hand, when exposed to the bacteria’s harmful toxins, triggers its defense mechanism to get rid of these “foreign objects” thus causing nausea, diarrhea, or fatigue.

While the negative conditions brought by psychrophilic bacteria may not seem as fatal as other serious illnesses, there are actually some cases from which it led to the patient’s death due to plain ignorance. This means that you should not wait for the symptoms to get worse before you take action. Or better yet stick with the “prevention is better than cure” rule by eliminating the causes of these bacteria’s growth. By making sure that your refrigerator is clean, well-handled, and hygienic ensures that you don’t have to deal with these harmful bacteria.

How to Have a Bacteria-free Refrigerator

Our refrigerator is basically one of our main storages for food, not to mention that it helps prevent or slow down spoilage. But apparently, there are some types of bacteria that can still thrive inside the refrigerator.

Here are some great tips on how to have your refrigerator safe and bacteria-free!

Set the perfect temperature

Make sure that you set your refrigerator at 40°F or lower as it is the most ideal temperature to prevent or slow down the growth of harmful bacteria. Some refrigerators also have built-in thermometer that monitors its internal temperature. If your refrigerator does not have one, you can always opt for an appliance thermometer. Appliance thermometers are designed specifically to monitor and supply accurate refrigerator temperatures.

Keep the door closed

Make sure that your refrigerator’s door is closed properly and tightly. Avoid opening it many times than it is necessary and close it as soon as possible when you are not using it. By letting hot air to enter your cold storage enables increased growth of bacteria.

Refrigerate food safely

When storing foods inside the refrigerator, you must always ensure to place it in tight-sealed containers to retain its moisture and prevent it from spreading to other foods. For instance, large portions or meat or poultry should be divided into smaller portions and placed inside a container before refrigerating. It is important that you seal the containers of raw meat, fish, or poultry tightly to avoid its juices from mixing or contaminating to other foods.

Avoid mixing your foods

You should never mix raw foods from cooked ones. Raw meat, poultry, or fish contains several bacteria from the gut of the animal. Make it a habit to place raw meat at the bottom of the shelf to avoid its juices from dripping into other foods, but it is still a best practice to have them into seal-tight containers.

Clean your fridge

This is basically one of the crucial things that you should do – constantly clean your refrigerator to ensure that it is safe and bacteria-free for storing foods. Wipe food spills immediately to avoid growth and spread of bacteria. When cleaning, make sure to use anti-bacteria cleaning products or bleach and clean the surfaces thoroughly. It is also advisable to use hot soapy water while cleaning, and then rinse it thoroughly.

Dispose older foods

Make sure that you throw old and spoiled foods as it may cause growth and spread of bacteria and molds which may contaminate other foods. To avoid having your food stay too long in your refrigerator and spoil, practice moving your older foods in the front row of your fridge. Doing this lets your food get seen and eaten before it goes out-of-date.

Can Bacteria Grow in Refrigerators?

Despite how foods from the refrigerator look clean and appetizing to eat, it could still be a lurking ground of some bacteria.

Can bacteria grow in the refrigerator?

Not many people are aware that bacteria can still grow inside the refrigerator. Although refrigerators are commonly set at 40°F to inhibit growth of bacteria, there are still some types of bacteria that grow in low temperatures. If given the right circumstances in the refrigerator such as temperature, air, moisture, and nutrients – the growth of bacteria can apparently be very quick.

What are Psychrophilic bacteria?

Bacteria are classified as prokaryotic microorganisms and may actually grow in a variety of temperature conditions.

While most bacteria grow best in hot temperatures, there are some types of it that thrives in cold conditions. These bacteria are called psychrophiles and they commonly grow at temperatures that range from 14°F to 68°F. The reason why psychrophiles can grow in cold temperatures is because they have an enzyme that enables them to grow in such conditions. They can usually be acquired from improper packaged foods like meats, milk, and eggs or can also be due to lack of proper sanitation of the refrigerator.

Furthermore, Psychophilic bacteria are identified as Pseudomonas, Listeria, Vibrio, and Coliform, which are all harmful bacteria and can cause serious illnesses.

How do these bacteria work?

Psychrophilic bacteria divide and multiply quickly in cold temperatures. When these bacteria is consumed through foods containing it, it will either grow inside the body or discharge harmful toxins that will trigger the body’s immune system to react, thus causing nausea, diarrhea, fatigue, and some other relevant symptoms.

Why are they harmful?

These cold-loving bacteria cause quite a lot of harmful consequences which includes dysentery, diarrhea, meningitis, sepsis, food poisoning, urinary tract infections, and gastrointestinal infections. According to studies, people who have greater risks of getting exposed to these harmful bacteria are those who are pregnant, newborns, immune-compromised, and have pre-existing health conditions.

How to prevent it

To prevent psychrophilic bacteria from growing in your refrigerator, you should primarily make sure that all the foods you store in your refrigerator are properly packaged. Ensure that you disinfect or clean your refrigerator with bleach regularly. Clean spills inside the refrigerator immediately and throw foods that already have molds. Make sure that you keep your refrigerator at 40°F to slow down or prevent the growth and spread of these bacteria. Let your frozen foods unfreeze in the refrigerator instead of the kitchen counter.