Chow Line: Fridge Organization Key to Lessening Foodborne Illness Risk

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I’ve always stored fresh eggs in the little “egg caddy” tray in the door of my refrigerator. But my husband says we should put the eggs in the actual fridge itself. Who’s right, him or me?

In this case, your hubby wins the point.

Because eggs are a perishable food, they should be stored in the main compartment of the fridge because the temperature is more stable there, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In fact, other perishable items such as raw meat and other dairy products should be stored in the main part of the fridge as well, USDA says.

That’s because when a refrigerator is opened, food stored on the inside of the door is most exposed to the warmer temperatures in the kitchen.

Keeping a clean and organized fridge is key to ensuring that the foods you’ve spent all that money on don’t spoil prematurely. Also, proper food placement can help reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses by guaranteeing that the right foods are in the right places and are kept at the right temperatures to ensure freshness and safety.

With that in mind, when organizing your fridge, it’s important to make sure it’s set to the proper temperature to make sure your food is being preserved correctly. Proper refrigeration slows bacterial growth on food, so it’s important to keep your fridge and freezer at a temperature that will keep your food safe and help it to stay fresher longer.

Refrigerators should be set to maintain a temperature between 34 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit to safely preserve your food, USDA advises. Setting the temperature too low will cause your refrigerator to work overtime and could also freeze some of your foods. Your freezer should be set to 0 degrees Fahrenheit or below.

Here are some more food placement tips to follow from USDA:

  • Avoid storing perishable foods in the doors of the fridge as the temperature fluctuates in this location each time the door is opened and closed. Instead, store water, juice and or condiments there.
  • Fruits and vegetables can be stored in the sealed crisper drawers in the fridge. If your fridge allows you to customize each drawer’s humidity levels, you should set the vegetable drawer to a higher humidity, while setting the fruit drawer to a lower humidity.
  • Raw meat, poultry and seafood should always be stored on the lowest shelf of the main compartment of the refrigerator. These items should also be well wrapped or in a sealed container to prevent juices from leaking onto other foods.
  • When storing cooked leftovers, place them on the top shelves in the main compartment of the fridge, above uncooked foods. Refrigerated leftovers are safe to eat up for up to four days.
  • To help keep your fridge clean smelling and to absorb odors of other foods, you can place an open box of baking soda on a shelf in the main compartment.

Lastly, you should try to clean spills in the fridge immediately with hot, soapy water. You can also sanitize your fridge with a diluted bleach solution of 1 tablespoon unscented liquid chlorine bleach to 1gallon of water.

Chow Line is a service of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, OSU Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Tracy Turner, 364 W. Lane Ave., Suite B120, Columbus, OH 43201, or

Editor: This column was reviewed by Kate Shumaker, an Ohio State University Extension educator and registered dietitian.

Tracy Turner
For more information, contact: 

Kate Shumaker
Ohio State University Extension