By Russ and Tiña De Maris
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 we don’t always think too much about RV fridge safety.
But hang on: “You don’t have to go to a restaurant or to a party to get sick,” said Chin-Fu 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 study. Vegetable bins were the most contaminated.
How safe is your RV fridge?
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 regarding RV fridge safety.
“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., at the time a senior vice president of the food safety division of the International Food Information Council (IFIC), a nonprofit organization that addresses consumer education.
IFIC took 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 frequently.
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 for the best RV fridge safety? Once a week, with dish soap, say the chill box experts. Then let the shelves and drawers air dry. (Others say once a month, as long as you clean up after spills and avoid cross-contamination of foods.)
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.