Don’t let your RV fridge make you sick


    By Russ and Tiña De Maris
    “If you are ever at a loss to support a flagging conversation, introduce the subject of eating.” —Leigh Hunt

    As RVers, we come from all backgrounds and dispositions, but there’s something we all agree on: We like to eat. Reaching into the chilled recesses of my RV’s refrigerator and grabbing something cold to drink or snack on is something I really love about the lifestyle. Your kitchen is always there.

    But hang on — “You don’t have to go to a restaurant or to a party to get sick,” said Fur-Chin Chen, Ph.D., a microbiologist at the University of Tennessee. He found a variety of pathogens in a quarter of the refrigerators he inspected during a recent study. Vegetable bins were the most contaminated.

    While the study was based on home refrigerators, it seems like sometimes when we’re away from home, we may get a bit less fussy about some things. Is your RV reefer safer than the one back home? Well, here’s some cold food for thought.

    “There is a disconnect between food safety practices and people’s confidence in preparing foods safely. It’s very hard to change behaviors,” said Danielle Schor, R.D., and a senior vice president of the food safety division of the International Food Information Council (IFIC), a nonprofit organization that addresses consumer education.

    IFIC has taken up the safe-refrigeration cause with a customized campaign. The campaign’s main message to consumers is to purchase thermometers, keep refrigerator temperatures at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below, and monitor several times a day.

    Aside from throwing out ready-to-eat foods by package storage dates, refrigerators need a weekly cleaning, a practice that consumers avoid. One study shows that approximately 50 percent of consumers clean their refrigerators once a month. But because consumers fail to clean thoroughly, scientists say that figure is likely exaggerated.

    So how often to clean the cooler? Once a week, with dish soap, say the chill box experts. Then let the shelves and drawers air dry.

    Of course, keeping the food temperature down to 40 degrees is a must, and follow recognized safety limits on how long to hold onto food. When traveling, keep a really close eye on food temperature. While we don’t advocate traveling with the fridge on, it’s a good idea to check the inside temperature when you get to your daily stopping point.

    image courtesy OpenClips on by permission

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