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November 2017

How often do you need to clean the office fridge?

Written by Nicole Horne
Workplace Hygiene

You might just glance at that chicken pie that looks like it’s mutated into something from an alien planet when you grab your lunch, but have you really ever thought about the risks of leaving food in the fridge for too long? The office kitchen is one of those areas we tend to forget about when it comes to our health and well-being, especially the office fridge!

The dangers of leaving food in the office fridge for too long

Food can become contaminated by any disease-causing organism at any stage of its life cycle, leading to food infection and even food poisoning. The effects of food-poisoning aren’t at all pleasant! The infographic below demonstrates the symptoms of food poisoning.

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Not only can this leave your staff feeling horribly ill, but absenteeism can negatively impact your company’s productivity levels.

Find out which are the most common germs to invade office environments.

How long can food be left in the office fridge before it should be thrown away?

Most people experience the problem - whether it’s the office fridge, or the fridge at home - that there always seem to be oldies (but not goodies) left lurking in the corners where the light goes off when the fridge is closed. Not only does this cause bad smells, but it poses a hygiene threat as well.

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According to the Business Insider, what makes food smell and “go bad” is the amount of bacteria on the food. The bacteria is actually eating your food, and this decomposition process releases chemicals into the food that can smell putrid.

Herewith is a list of foods and recommendations on how long they can be kept in the fridge, before it becomes too long:

  1. Fresh produce: Ensure you look out for any mould, bruises or damage on fruits and vegetables. If they are uncut, they can be kept around for a few weeks, but once you cut them make sure they are refrigerated and eaten within 4 days.
  2. Dairy products: Milk should be consumed within 10 days of the sell-by date, soft cheeses within a week and hard cheeses for 4 weeks. Ensure dairy products aren’t kept inside the fridge door, but rather deeper inside where it is colder, and throw out milks and cheeses after use-by dates.
  3. Eggs: Raw eggs can be refrigerated for a month and cooked eggs for 3 days.
  4. Meat and Poultry: Raw chicken can be kept in the fridge for a day or two, while cooked chicken can be kept for 3 to 4 days. Raw, ground meat can be refrigerated for 1 to 2 days, while red meat and pork can stay 3 to 5 days.
  5. Fish and shellfish: Raw fish or shellfish stored in the refrigerator should be eaten in 1 to 2 days, while cooked fish and shellfish can be refrigerated for two days. Any longer than that and the quality begins to deteriorate and it will develop that "fishy" smell.
  6. Bread: Ensure you stick to the use-by date, especially if you store bread on the counter. Packaged soft bread can last 5 days up to a week in the pantry and slightly longer in the fridge. Storing it in the refrigerator will prolong it’s lifespan, but it might make it stale.
  7. Leftovers: these are okay to be kept in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days, after which they should be thrown out.

Easy tips to ensure a hygienic and safe office fridge and kitchen:

  • Make sure that item use-by dates are checked and that food past its’ expiry date is thrown out. Communicate this to staff members; after all, hygiene is everyone’s responsibility.
  • Food should be kept in airtight containers to keep it fresher for longer.
  • Spills should be wiped up immediately as bacteria thrives in moisture.
  • Ensure that a regular cleaning and disinfection schedule is in place to reduce the risk of a foodborne illness outbreak, mal odour and cross contamination.
  • Not only is it important to ensure that your fridge is cleaned and disinfected regularly, but also clean and disinfect all the areas around the fridge, such as countertops, surfaces, kitchen equipment and utensils that are used for preparing food, in order to eliminate microorganisms that cause food poisoning.
  • To prevent cross contamination, educate colleagues about the importance of washing hands before and after handling food, as well as before eating and after visiting the bathroom.
  • Clean the cleaning tools! This tends to be forgotten, but what good is wiping the fridge with a sponge that has just washed out a moldy container?! Ensure rags, cloths, sponges and any other cleaning supplies is properly sanitised on a regular basis.
Recommended blog post: 25 Easy tips to ensure you are cleaning your office properly for more kitchen cleaning tips.

We don’t always think about it, but to prevent the spread of germs in the office, the kitchen and office fridge is one of the main areas to consider when it comes to looking after the wellbeing of your colleagues.

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Nicole Horne

Nicole Horne

Nicole is a Digital Marketing Executive at Rentokil Initial Hygiene in Johannesburg. A self-proclaimed germaphobe, her love for hygienic environments and curiosity of all things “beneath the surface” fuels her enthusiasm for writing about the impact of germs in the workplace. She is passionate about creating awareness and sharing her knowledge on the impact of good hygiene practices. Follow Nicole on Twitter and LinkedIn for updates on the the good, the bad and the germy.

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