Cleaning your refrigerator after a food recall

Cleaning your refrigerator after a food recall

by Sue Jones
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Recalls happen in the U.S. almost daily. Most consumers know not to eat or drink the recalled products and to throw them out, but one thing that’s easy to forget about is cross-contamination.

Products that have been recalled often have been placed in consumers’ refrigerators, on their counters or in their cupboards. This means that cross-contamination could have occurred in any of these areas.

Harmful germs in the recalled product can easily spread to drawers or shelves in your refrigerator through from packaging or spills or leaks.

Recalled food is often contaminated with harmful pathogens, such as Salmonella, Listeria or E. coli. This means that after a recalled product has sat in your fridge, it could contaminate other items in your fridge with one of these dangerous pathogens.

Food poisoning can lead to being hospitalized, and for certain vulnerable people, the illnesses can be fatal.

Here are some tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on how to clean your fridge and counters, and keep your family safe and healthy after removing a recalled product. Use paper towels when possible.Screen Shot 2021 11 19 At 10.21.41 Am

Step 1 – Throw out recalled food

  • Throw out the recalled food, and any other foods stored with it or touching it.
  • Put it in a sealed bag in the garbage.
  • If the recalled food was stored in a reusable container, wash it with hot, soapy water before reusing it.

Step 2 – Empty your refrigerator

  • Empty the rest of the items in your refrigerator.
  • Take out shelving, drawers, and any other removable parts.
  • Don’t leave unrefrigerated food out for more than 2 hours.

Step 3 – Wash removable parts

  • Wash shelving, drawers, and any other removable parts by hand with hot, soapy water.
  • Dry with a clean towel.
  • Don’t run cold glass shelves or drawers under hot water because the glass could crack. Let them come to room temperature first.

Step 4 – Clean and sanitize inside the refrigerator

  • Wipe the inside of the empty refrigerator with hot, soapy water; then wipe with clean water to rinse off the soap.
  • Dry with a clean towel.
  • Don’t forget to wipe inside the doors and any drawers that cannot be removed.

Optional step:

Use a solution of 1 tablespoon of liquid bleach in 1 gallon of water to sanitize your refrigerator. Do this after cleaning the refrigerator with hot, soapy water.

Step 5 – Return shelves, drawers and food

  • Put the shelves, drawers, and other removable parts back in the refrigerator, along with the other items you took out.
  • Wipe food containers and drink containers with hot, soapy water before returning to the clean refrigerator.

Don’t forget:

  • Wash your hands with water and soap once you’ve finished cleaning.
  • Use hot, soapy water to wipe kitchen counters that held food, drinks, refrigerator parts, and any cleaning materials.
  • Wash any towels you used to dry the refrigerator before using them again.


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