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What temperature should a fridge be? Safe food storage

Updated: Jul 14, 2022

When it comes to food safety, temperature is of critical importance.


Whether it’s defrosting, hot holding, delivery or fridge temperatures, there are specific guidelines that you should follow to ensure that you are producing and storing food safely, and therefore effectively preventing foodborne illnesses.


We’ve put together this guide to help you navigate this topic, covering what temperature should fridges be, why this is important, record keeping, storage considerations, and much more.


What temperature should your fridge be?


Temperature refers to the degree or intensity of heat. There are three main scales to measure it - Fahrenheit (°F), Celsius (°C), and Kelvin (K). In the UK, the most commonly used scale is Celsius.


According to the Food Standards Agency, a fridge’s temperature should be 5°C or below. This is to make sure that cold food is kept at 8°C or below, which is a legal business requirement in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.


You should measure the air temperature of the fridge with an appropriate thermometer because the dials on fridges don’t always provide an accurate reading.


For more information on how to keep cold food in a fridge, check out a helpful video with advice from the FSA here.


Why is fridge temperature so important?


Keeping food refrigerated helps prevent the growth of harmful bacteria.


You need to make sure that your fridge is cold enough (i.e., below 5°C) or bacteria may still be able to multiply quite quickly.


Did you know? The window of temperature between 8°C and 60°C is considered the ‘Danger Zone’, as it allows bacteria to multiply quickly, increasing the risk of food-poisoning incidents.


Any bacteria that are living under 5°C can only function slowly.


Remember - As a food operator, it’s your responsibility to ensure that you are producing and storing food safely.


food on fridge shelves including fruit and vegetables in colourful containers

What food should be kept in a fridge?


You should keep items with a use-by date or a label that says ‘keep refrigerated’ (or similar) in the fridge. Some jars may need to be stored in the fridge once they are opened.


Here are some examples of food products that should be stored in the fridge:

  • Dairy products (e.g., milk, butter and yoghurt)

  • Raw meat, poultry and fish

  • Cooked dishes

  • Salads

Cold temperature records: do your due diligence


If you’re a food operator like a restaurant or coffee shop, you should record fridge temperatures at least once a day.


Simply place an appropriate thermometer inside the fridge unit to check the air temperature. Once you’ve got a temperature reading, make sure to record it.


EHOs want to see that you’re doing everything in your power to prepare food safely. Having temperature records, along with HACCP documentation and other kitchen compliance checks, makes it easier to show how well you’re managing food hygiene within your establishment.


If you’re still using paper diaries to record temperatures, you should consider switching to a digital temperature logs app. Not only does this save your busy team precious time, but it also cuts costs and reduces the amount of paper used.


The Hubl app, for instance, allows you to record both hot and cold temperatures. It also provides guidance that empowers teams to produce safe food. What’s more, it lets you add multiple fridges and freezers so it can be tailored to suit your business operations.


Food safety: other chilled storage considerations

There are a few other precautions you should take to ensure you are safely storing food in a fridge, namely:

  • Do not keep the door open for too long as this may cause the temperature to rise

  • Make sure your fridge is not too full to allow air to circulate and maintain the set temperature

  • Wait for food to cool down before placing it in the fridge

  • Do not keep food beyond its use-by date

  • Keep the most perishable foods in the coldest area of the fridge

  • Always follow food storage instructions

For more tips on temperature control and chilled storage, check out this practical guide that the North Devon Council put together.


Fridge temperature: quick summary


Bacteria multiply quickly in warmer temperatures, which is why it’s so important to keep fridges cold.


A fridge’s temperature should be 5°C or below to ensure that food is kept at 8°C or below. This helps reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses.


You should measure fridge temperatures at least once a day and record them to demonstrate due diligence to environmental health officers.


Here at Hubl, we love talking about all things food & drink. Whether you’re wondering how to develop a restaurant menu or seeking advice on how to improve your food hygiene rating, we’ve got you covered.


References


Chilling food correctly in your business, Food Standards Agency, Accessed in July 2022


Chilling: How to chill, freeze and defrost food safely, Food Standards Agency, Accessed in July 2022


Chilling, Food Standards Scotland, Accessed in July 2022


Storing food safely, nidirect government services, Accessed in July 2022



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