It has only been a few decades since the use of refrigeration has become compulsory in Spain and people have become used to this technology, to the point where it is part of the family. Every home has a fridge which shares the life of the occupants and is an essential appliance. Its presence is justified because it maintains most store-bought food for a long time, even though its widespread use might make people think that its only utility is to keep food chilled.
You should not forget that your home fridge guarantees the safety of the food you eat. Chilling does not allow the multiplication of microorganisms, so if there is a disease-causing germ in your food, it will not reproduce and your food will be safe.
Nonetheless, there are exceptions. Bacteria which are able to survive in refrigeration were identified some time ago. One of them, known as Listeria, is especially worrying. Its optimum growth temperature is between 30º and 35ºC (86º and 95ºF) but, and this is where the problem is, it is able to multiply in refrigeration, especially in non-acidic foods, in which it may grow in temperatures of 4ºC (39.2ºF). Remember that the temperature in household fridges is between 0º and 8ºC (32º and 46.4ºF).
This type of bacteria does not grow in acidic food such as yoghurt, cheese and some processed meats. But if these foods are kept in refrigeration at 8ºC, after 15 days Listeria reaches dangerous levels. The greatest hazard occurs when the cold chain is broken, that is, when chilled food is left at room temperature. In non-acidic foods left at 15ºC (59ºF), hazardous levels may be reached after 14 hours.
Therefore, to prevent health problems related to perishable food, it is crucial to always keep them at low temperatures. To do this it is necessary for your fridge to work properly and to avoid bad habits, such as leaving the door open for too long. If you can, use a thermometer to help you make sure that the temperature is correct. Also, if there is a problem it should be fixed as soon as possible, especially in the summer or when the outside temperature is high.
If you eat out, avoid foods that should be kept chilled if you notice that they are kept at room temperature.
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