Contaminated Food in The Refrigerator - To Keep or Not To Keep - That is the Question

  Romain Lettuce
Romain Lettuce | Source
 Tuna Salad with beats and avocado.
Tuna Salad with beats and avocado. | Source

How long has this been goin' on?

The other day I was in the mood for a delicious tuna salad. I like to use romaine lettuce for the " bed ", then pile albacore tuna, celery, carrots, diced apples and beets on the lettuce - toss with a little ginger and lightly spray my home made sesame seed/olive oil dressing.

As I reached into the vegetable bin in my fridge, I found 2 packages of romaine lettuce. One was still sealed and the other had been opened and only 2 large leaves remained in the package. I questioned the safty of using the left over leaves. My son assured me it would be ok. I asked him how he knew the leaves were safe to eat and he saidthey were safe because they looked ok and smelled ok.

Well, that wasn't good enough for me. And what does an upright bass player and Luthier know about food safety anyhow? No, I'm not going to tell you what a Luthier is. Look it up in the dictionary and you can thank me later for adding a new word to your vocabulary.

Anyhow, my salad would have to be put on hold for a few minutes, until I found the answer to the questionable romain lettuce sitting in the crisper. After some careful checking on food safety, this is what I learned:

  • If the lettuce has been refrigerated for 1 week, it will begin to turn brown. Time to toss it out.

Since not a hint of brown was on the lettuce and it wasn't slimy (eeeeuuuu), nor did it smell, I went ahead and used it and enjoyed every last bite of my salad.

Then I started wondering about the safety of my other food items.

Refrigerator Temperature

I had not given much thought to the temperature in my refrigerator. I just assumed that if I turned the temperature dial toward cold my food would be fine. Then I learned an important fact. The temperature must be set at 40 degrees F or lower to protect most of my food. I immediately purchased a thermometer and attached it to the inside wall of my fridge. It read 45 degrees F. I immediately adjusted the temperature and have noticed a difference ever since. The lettuce now lasts longer as do other products.

As far as bacteria goes, two kinds exist.

  • Pathogenic - This type of bacteria comes from temperatures being between 40 degrees F and 140 Degrees F. The thing I dislike about this type of bacteria is, you can't smell or taste that it's bad. It appears to be ok. So a person can get sick and not even know it until it's too late.

A few years ago I took a trip to Las Vegas and on the way home I stopped at a buffet to have dinner. I ended up with a severe case of food poison. It was so bad I actually wanted to die. And I just about did. Some Buffett's are notorious for spreading Pathogenic bacteria because the serving bins are not kept hot enough, or cold enough.

  • Spoilage - This type of bacteria is obvious to spot as it looks bad and tastes bad. It is born from low temperatures. Most all of us have been able to spot this type of bacteria.

Be very careful about leaving food out on the counter as it can appear to be fine, but is actually dangerous to eat. And remember to disinfect countertops after food (especially meat, fish or chicken) has been left out.

The best natural product for killing bacteria is vinegar. Use apple cider vinegar or white vinegar. I simply pour vinegar into a small spray bottle, and my disinfectant is always ready to use and close at hand. I just spray a little on the infected area, let is sit for a few minutes and scrub. Vinegar is all natural, without harsh chemicals and it's good for the environment.

Video 1 short introduction

Video 2

Video 3


What About Those Expiration Dates?

Do you know that the only food required by law to be labeled for an expiration date is baby formula and baby foods? This was news to me. After checking on a few foods and their expiration dates this is what I found:

  • Milk. I like almond milk which needs to be used up within 7-10 days after opening. Regular milk will last a week after the "sell by" date.
  • If you're an egg eater they'll be safe for 3-5 weeks providing you purchase them by the "sell by" date.
  • Chicken and seafood should be used within a day or two.
  • Pork and beef is fine if cooked or frozen 3-5 days after purchase.


I swear that when my refrigerator is well-cleaned and sparkling (I use vinegar) the food tastes better. Just remember to avoid leaving the food out too long on the kitchen counter when you clean. I often pop my food into an ice chest during cleaning periods to keep it nice and cold.

  • Remember to check your refrigerator temperature and keep it at 40 degrees F or lower.
  • Use white or apple cider vinegar to clean counter tops and the refrigerator.
  • Use air-tight food containers for storing food. Glass is best.
  • Check expiration and use by dates on all packages and canned foods.

"If in doubt, throw it out!" - Audrey Hunt

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Comments 43 comments

MPG Narratives profile image

MPG Narratives 5 years ago from Sydney, Australia

A lute repairer? Well now I know, thanks Vocalcoach.

I had the same problem with a tomato left in the fridge with one slice taken out of it. It looked ok but was a little wrinkled. Like you I used it in a salad and enjoyed it but still wondered after whether I should have eaten it.

Thanks for the great tips, voted up and useful.

Marsha H profile image

Marsha H 5 years ago from My Retro Kitchen in NY

There's some good info here, and I keep a thermometer in both the fridge and freezer.

But what I really wanted to say is... that tuna salad looks pos-O-tively delicious. :)

+vote up

Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 5 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

I have wondered these same things, to est or not to eat, that is the question....I usually eat. But we do not eat meat so that takes one potential mistake out of the mix. This Hub is very informational. Thanks

drbj profile image

drbj 5 years ago from south Florida

Important information, Audrey - I'm glad you took the time to share it with the rest of us. As to the meaning of 'luthier' - that's the dental assistant who works on a looth tooth. Right?

vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 5 years ago from Nashville Tn. Author

Hahahahahahahahaha!!!!!!!!!!!! That's the funniest thing I have ever heard@! Can't stop laughing. Can't wait to tell my son that he's a dental assistant. :):):)

Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 5 years ago from North Carolina

What a great subject for a hub, Audrey. Thanks for the useful info written with humor and research.

vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 5 years ago from Nashville Tn. Author

Denise - I'm on a high after reading your comments. And I need it, if I'm going to finish the hub challenge. I am sooooooo behind. Looks like I will be working through the next few nights :)

Hyphenbird - Good morning! Thank you for reading and commenting. I'm so with you on the "don't eat meat" rule.

While writing this hub, I researched for hours because I wanted the latest findings on this subject. I liked what I learned and am glad you do too.

Movie Master profile image

Movie Master 5 years ago from United Kingdom

Hi Audrey, I had no idea white vinegar was good for killing bacteria!

Excellent information and tips here, thank you for sharing.

midnightbliss profile image

midnightbliss 5 years ago from Hermosa Beach

this is a very informative hub, thanks for sharing all this information that i haven't thought about before.

Green Lotus profile image

Green Lotus 5 years ago from Atlanta, GA

Great information! It gives you a lot more to go by then the old adage, "when in doubt, throw it out"!

randomcreative profile image

randomcreative 5 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Your tuna salad sounds amazing! Thanks for all of the useful information. My general rule is that if it smells okay and hasn't been in the fridge longer than a week, I'll eat it. I am very careful about how I handle and prepare meats. I've been very fortunate never to have food poisoning.

embee77 profile image

embee77 5 years ago

This is super, VC. Knowing I should keep the fridge temp at or below 40 is very helpful. Thanks for doing the research and reporting it in such an interesting way.

profile image

SusieQ42 5 years ago

Excellent information. I didn't know the fridge temp had to be 40 degrees or below. I'll have to check mine. I don't usually worry about fresh veggies; they last outside in the garden, right?

always exploring profile image

always exploring 5 years ago from Southern Illinois

This is really good advice. I am the worst to put leftovers in the frig, then always throw them out. Thank's for sharing...

Chuck Bluestein profile image

Chuck Bluestein 5 years ago from Morristown, AZ, USA

When storing greens in the refrigerator, you will notice that if they are wet in the container they will go bad much quicker than if they are dry in the container. I have been vegetarian for decades and never had a problem with food that I prepared at home.

I love the cabbage crunch salad made by Whole Foods. It contains red and green cabbage, scallions, sliced almonds, olive oil and apple cider vinegar. I bought some and sat down to eat there. I spit out my first bite and got my money back and watched them remove it from the salad bar. It was very easy to tell that it had gone bad.

Lita C. Malicdem profile image

Lita C. Malicdem 5 years ago from Philippines

If there are those who don't seem to mind what happens after stacking the food inside a ref, I'm one of them. I my use eyes to see, my nose to smell, and tongue to lick on suspected spoils. What an innocent waste I did then!

This is embarrassing even more, but I don't use thermometer inside my fridge! The thermostat runs, just like that! You have lots of information I will observe from now on. I'm fun of green salads and love that tuna salad! The Romain looks crispy, and yummy, too! Voted up and useful. Thank you!

vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 5 years ago from Nashville Tn. Author

Green Lotus - I do like that quote 'tho ( when in doubt, throw it out ). I like the directions on my carton of soy milk and almond milk, " use within 7 days of opening ." Thanks, G.L.

funmontrealgirl profile image

funmontrealgirl 5 years ago from Montreal

Very good information. I like that you don't just listen and look to find the answers. I have made the mistake of leaving something out overnight and been hungry and not wanted to throw it away when it is an expensive item. Like maybe a brand new rice milk I had opened. I have a nice fridge that keeps things cool but this is all very good to know. Voted up.

Charlotte B Plum profile image

Charlotte B Plum 5 years ago

What a refreshing way to present a potentially dry topic. =) Really admire how you did it! Thank you for all the interesting and useful info!

Truckstop Sally profile image

Truckstop Sally 5 years ago

Great info! I did not know about vinegar being such a good cleanser. The video on storing meat was great too. I already store mine above the cripser, but not for the right reasons. Thanks for sharing.

prasetio30 profile image

prasetio30 5 years ago from malang-indonesia

Nice and very useful information. I just wanna say "you had done a great job". I love our tips and the video above. Vote up!


diogenes profile image

diogenes 5 years ago from UK and Mexico

Hello VC. OK I know what a luthier is because Alex Delaware's SO, Robin, is one (Jonathan Kellerman's books). As you know, I live on baked beans which seem to last ever so long outside the fridge. I look OK on this diet, but am not invited to too many places due to unpleasant effluent ...Good hub and goodday...Bob

vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 5 years ago from Nashville Tn. Author

MPG - Actually, a Luthier is a specialist in repairing and building wooden musical instruments such as the Upright Bass. But your answer, "the lute" makes more sense :) Glad you liked the tips for refrigeration. Thanks so much!

Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 5 years ago from London, UK

Thank you for all these tips. One can't be too careful with food.

vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 5 years ago from Nashville Tn. Author

Thank you Hanna. I am especially careful as I get older. My tummy can't handle what it used to :)

Tamarajo profile image

Tamarajo 5 years ago from Southern Minnesota

informative article. I hate wasting food so I have been guilty of eating questionable items from the fridge. I would hate to get food poisoning however. I will try to be more careful. your experience didn't sound very fun.

vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 5 years ago from Nashville Tn. Author

Tamarajo - I seem to have a more sensitive digestive system than when I was younger. It seems like I could eat anything back then, and never be bothered by it. But now it's a different story. And I hope you never ever get

food's the worst imaginable. Thanks!

rwelton profile image

rwelton 5 years ago from Sacramento CA

vocalcoach...regardless of how much disposable income or not a family may have, wasting good money on spoiled food does no one any good. I HATE to throw out food that is past it's peak...not everything can be sent to the squishy, dark-brown banana now-its-bread food repair shop. I have kept a thermometer in the door of the fridge since it was called an icebox...ha.

I had a pretty good idea about who a luthier was...but I had no challenge in relating to the 'up-tight bass player'...


vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 5 years ago from Nashville Tn. Author

Wasting food bothers me, as I grew up in a very poor family and lived on bread and gravy for what seemed like an eternity. And the gravy was mostly flour and lard, alth on a special occasion bacon grease was used. Thanks for your valuable comments.

rwelton profile image

rwelton 5 years ago from Sacramento CA a kid there was always a Folger's coffee can full of bacon grease on the back of the stove for all purpose frying and we thought nothing of it - I never saw it cleaned or replaced, just added to...

...our own homemade "Oreo" cookies were two slices of white bread spread with lard and a double helping of sugar...


vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 5 years ago from Nashville Tn. Author

rwelton - Gosh...we must have grown up about the same time. I vividly remember the bacon grease on the back of the stove and we had the very same recipe for "Oreo" cookies. How fun, to meet a buddy from "the good old days". vc

Rusticliving profile image

Rusticliving 5 years ago from California

Loved the fact that you addressed correct temperature of your fridge. Having worked in the retail and food industry for many years, it is VERY important to keep your fridge ( freezer) at the correct temp. It's amazing how much we don't know or see and take everything for granite that food can't spoil. Living in Hawaii for 20 years taught me this as well.

Jeannieinabottle profile image

Jeannieinabottle 5 years ago from Baltimore, MD

This is very useful information. I tend to eat food from my fridge that I probably should not. I look at the date, see it has gone past it, still eat it, and hope for the best. Sometimes that is a really bad idea. Thanks for the info. Voted up!

Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

Marcy Goodfleisch 5 years ago from Planet Earth

I worry about old foods (the ones I can't pinpoint on dates, etc.). This is a helpful hub - thanks for publishing! Voted up and useful.

tammyswallow profile image

tammyswallow 5 years ago from North Carolina

Great advice Vocal Coach. I follow the golden rule of food, when in doubt, throw it out. Sadly, I learned this the hard way. Thanks for these tips. I have never once in my life considered the temperature on my refrigerator. Ahh!!!

Ardie profile image

Ardie 5 years ago from Neverland

Here is my comment because that little pooch looks like he means business! I am super paranoid about the contents of my fridge and expiration dates. I read a fact somewhere that stated that almost ALL cases of "stomach bug" are really due to eating contaminated/spoiled foods. One bad piece of food in your fridge can contaminate the other foods! Anyways, I really appreciate this Hub because now I can make sense of my foods instead of just tossing them all out even when they look perfectly fine :)

Bronterae profile image

Bronterae 5 years ago from Nor Cal

I knew what a luthier is! I teach on what he makes, but you told everybody already. :(

Great hub for those of us who are constantly wondering if we should eat it.

tsmog profile image

tsmog 5 years ago from Escondido, CA

Nice Hub VocalCoach. Not knowing, challenged to know, and meowing with curiosity I looked up Luthier. TY, A lot of good information here. It points to planning too.

I know my fridge causes feelings of guilt on Thur when I clean it. "Now why didn't I eat that. I bought too much. Oh no, I forgot about that and wanted to eat it. Darn, that was good & my neighbor's generosity was warm too!" are conjured.

Now I am thinking about "Do You Speak Manguage" by RealHouseWife realizing I am leaving a long comment. Go figure. You never know what you learn here at hubpages. And, this article packs a punch hitting close to home. Thanks! Well written, humorous, and thought provoking.

vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 4 years ago from Nashville Tn. Author

Hi Marcy - So great to see you here. Thanks for commenting. And it was precisely because I was concerned about how long I could leave food in the fridge that led me to research this subject.

vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 4 years ago from Nashville Tn. Author

@jeannieinabottle - My son does the same thing as you. He checks the date and even if the food has expired, eats it anyway. :-) He never gets sick! I recently learned that if yogurt is stored upside down its good several days after the expiration date. Thanks so much!

@ardie - I had no idea that one bad piece of food in the refrigerator would contaminate everything else too. Wow! I'm really glad to know this. I sure hope others read your comments here.

@bronterae - are a bass teacher. Great! I'm glad you like my hub and hope to see you again real soon.

@tammyswallow - I'm like you - when in doubt, throw it out. I refuse to play "russian roulette" with anything living in the refrigerator or otherwise. Do check the temp of your refrigerator. Thanks Tammy!

@tsmog - Love your great comments. Giggled and laughed with delite. And for the record I so enjoy long comments. Especially ones like yours. I'm a happy camper knowing you liked my hub. A big thank you!

Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 4 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

Excellent, to-the-point article about food storage and safety. Up, useful, and pinned. :)

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

Very useful my friend! I want to know why I don't get notifications of when you have published? I just happened to see this on Facebook. Not good at all; I want to know when you publish since you are a quality writer. Sigh!

Anyway, very good information and I thank you!

vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 4 years ago from Nashville Tn. Author

Sally's Trove - I'm so glad to see you Sally:) Thanks so much for the encouraging comment and the rating you've given me. Take care!

Hi Bill - Gee, I'm not sure what is going on. I wrote this a while ago. But gosh, gee, I'm flying high to hear such a nice comment from you. Hugs, billy!

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