Cold Storage - Food Safety - Minnesota Dept. of Health

Cold Storage

Tips for storing food properly in the refrigerator or freezer to help prevent foodborne illness.

On this page:


  • The first rule of food storage in the home is to refrigerate or freeze perishables right away.


  • The refrigerator temperature should be 40° Fahrenheit, and the freezer should be 0° F. Check both "fridge" and freezer periodically with a refrigerator/freezer thermometer.


  • Wrap tightly foods destined for the freezer. Leftovers should be stored in tight containers.
  • Don't crowd the freezer so tightly that air can't circulate.

  • Freezer burn is a food-quality issue, not a food safety issue.
    • It appears as grayish-brown leathery spots on frozen food.
    • It occurs when air reaches the food's surface and dries out the product.
    • This can happen when food is not securely wrapped in air-tight packaging.
    • Color changes result from chemical changes in the food's pigment.
    • It merely causes dry spots in foods.
    • Cut away these areas either before or after cooking the food.
    • When freezing food in plastic bags, push all the air out before sealing.
      From: Does "freezer burn" make food unsafe? (USDA)


  • Don't crowd the refrigerator so tightly that air can't circulate.


  • Eggs should be stored in their carton in the refrigerator itself rather than on the door, where the temperature is warmer.
  • Seafood should always be kept in the refrigerator or freezer until preparation time.
  • Poultry and meat heading for the refrigerator may be stored as purchased in the plastic wrap for a day or two.
    • If only part of the meat or poultry is going to be used right away, it can be wrapped loosely for refrigerator storage. Just make sure juices can't escape to contaminate other foods.

  • Refrigerator and Freezer Storage Chart
    This refrigerator and freezer cold storage chart gives short, conservative storage times to protect you from food spoilage (what you risk in long refrigeration) and from taste loss (what happens when food is left too long in the freezer).


  • Check the items daily for spoilage.
  • Anything that looks or smells suspicious should be thrown out.
  • A sure sign of spoilage is the presence of mold, which can grow even under refrigeration.
    • While not a major health threat, mold can make food unappetizing.
    • Most moldy foods should be thrown out.
    • But you might be able to save molding hard cheeses, salami, and firm fruits and vegetables if you cut out not only the mold but a large area around it.
    • Cutting the larger area around the mold is important because much of the mold growth is below the surface of the food.

Source: Excerpted from FDA Consumer Materials - The Unwelcome Dinner Guest: Preventing Foodborne Illness.


Updated Monday, 25-Nov-2019 15:39:23 CST