Food Safety: Storing

Overview

Storing food promptly and correctly can help prevent food poisoning. Here are some tips.

  • Store at safe temperatures.

    Set your refrigerator at or below 40°F (4°C) and your freezer at or below 0°F (-18°C).

  • Don't leave food out too long.

    Refrigerate or freeze meat, poultry, eggs, fish, shellfish, ready-to-eat foods, and leftovers within 2 hours or sooner. Refrigerate within 1 hour if the temperature outdoors is above 90°F (32°C). (This is often the case during summer picnics.)

  • Don't store meats and other foods in the refrigerator for too long.
    • Don't keep fresh poultry, fish, or ground meats in the refrigerator for more than 2 days. Don't keep fresh beef, veal, lamb, or pork in the refrigerator more than 3 to 5 days. Cook or freeze them.
    • Other foods may have a longer storage time in the refrigerator. Eggs can be stored for 3 to 5 weeks. Processed and brick cheese can be stored for 3 to 4 weeks. But don't store opened lunch meats for more than 3 to 5 days.
  • Store leftovers safely.

    Divide large amounts of leftovers into shallow containers for quicker cooling. Use refrigerated leftovers within 3 to 4 days.

  • Don't pack your refrigerator with food.

    Cool air must circulate to keep food safe.

  • Separate cooked and raw food.

    Never store cooked or ready-to-eat food below raw food in the refrigerator.

  • Use safe containers.

    Always store food in leak-proof, clean containers with tight-fitting lids.

  • Store canned foods safely.

    In general, high-acid canned food such as tomatoes, grapefruit, and pineapple can be stored in a cupboard for 12 to 18 months. In general, low-acid canned food such as meat, poultry, fish, and most vegetables can be stored for 2 to 5 years. But the can must be in good condition and stored in a cool, clean, dry place.

  • Check cans for damage.

    Do not keep canned food if the cans are dented, leaking, bulging, or rusting.

Credits

Current as of: February 9, 2022

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated, disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. Learn how we develop our content.

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This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated, disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. Learn how we develop our content.