Is it safe to put warm food in the fridge? An expert has weighed in on one of the greatest kitchen debates.
Hygiene expert Mary Futher has warned everyone to never leave leftovers out of the fridge until they reach room temperature.
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“True or false? Putting warm good in the refrigerator can actually cause bacteria,” she said in a now-viral video.
“My mother-in-law always said, ‘Leave the food out, let it cool down before you put it in the fridge, otherwise it will grow bacteria.
“Well guess what? She was wrong.”
Hygiene expert Mary Futher has warned everyone to never leave food out of the fridge until they reach room temperature. Credit: Madame Sweat
The expert, from Canada, said you should put the food warm into the fridge as soon as possible.
“It’s perfectly acceptable to put warm food in the fridge,” Futher, otherwise known as Madame Sweat, said.
“In fact don’t leave food sitting out on your counter. If you left it out for more than two hours, you may as well throw it in the garbage.
“The sooner you get it into the fridge, the better.”
Avoid big containers
She suggested storing food in a smaller container because it will cool down quicker.
“Bigger containers will take longer to cool down in the fridge,” she said.
“Make sure your leftovers are placed into a shallow dish. Don’t put a big ginormous dish in the refrigerator because it’ll take longer to cool down.”
Her video has been viewed more than 2.4 million times — with many divided over her statement.
“I always leave hot or warm food on the counter for about 30 minutes so it doesn’t impact the temperature inside the fridge,” one said.
Another claimed: “Grew up with my mum leaving all the food in the pots overnight and we ate it the next day. No one ever got sick.”
One suggested: “It warms up the fridge. Not a problem for a small container but don’t put a whole lasagna straight from the oven or your other food could spoil.”
Another added: “I think it was true back in the day because the refrigerators were different. But our refrigerators now can handle cooling warm food.”
According to the Australian Department of Health, food that has just been cooked or taken out of the oven to cool should be cooled as quickly as possible to prevent the growth of bacteria.
Hot food should never be put directly into the fridge after cooking as it may cause the temperature to increase above 5C.
If the fridge temperature goes above 5C all other food stored in the fridge is at risk of growing bacteria.
How to cool food quickly
Stir cooked foods frequently to help the food coolTake food out of the larger container you cooked it in and carefully put it into smaller containers so it will cool quickerMonitor the temperature using a clean and sanitised thermometerAllow cool air to circulate around the containers of food to be cooledFood must be cooled to 21C within two hours
How long can you leave rice/pasta out?
Last year, doctor Joe Whittington issued a grave warning about eating rice and pasta at room temperature after a 20-year-old student died from severe food poisoning.
He weighed in after a 2008 story started re-circulating on social media about a college student who reportedly ate spaghetti that had been out of the fridge for almost a week.
The emergency doctor, from the US, warned how leaving starchy cooked foods such as rice or pasta at room temperature for more than two hours could have fatal consequences.
Dr Joe Whittington has warned about eating rice and pasta at room temperature. Credit: Dr Joe Whittington
“This 20-year-old died of a condition that’s commonly referred to as ‘fried rice syndrome’,” Dr Whittington said in a now-viral video.
“This is a condition in which can have bacterial overgrowth if pasta or rice is left at room temperature for too long.”
Fried rice syndrome is a type of food poisoning caused by the bacteria called Bacillus cereus, which is often associated with improperly stored or reheated fried rice dishes.
“In med school, we’re taught the phrase, ‘Reheat rice. Be serious’ to remember which bacteria causes this condition,” he said.
So how long is too long?
“You should not eat pasta or rice that’s been left at room temperature unrefrigerated for more than two hours,” Dr Whittington warned.
The case of the 20-year-old’s death is rare.
However, Bacillus cereus can lead to gastrointestinal illness if certain cooked foods are not stored properly.
According to the Department of Health, food poisoning bacteria grow more easily on some foods than others.
High-risk foods include cooked rice and pasta, raw and cooked meat, dairy products, eggs, small goods such as ham and salami, seafood, prepared salads including coleslaws, fruit salad and ready-to-eat options such as sandwiches and pizzas.
Take care with high-risk foods. You should remember to:
Keep high-risk foods out of the temperature danger zone of between 5C and 60C.If high-risk foods have been left in the temperature danger zone for up to two hours the food should be reheated, refrigerated or consumed.If high-risk foods have been left in the temperature danger zone for longer than two hours, but less than four hours, they should be consumed immediately.Throw out any high-risk foods that have been left in the temperature danger zone for more than four hours.
How to store food
Separate raw food from cooked food, and store raw food at the bottom of the fridge to avoid juices dripping onto, and contaminating, other food.Check your fridge temperature is below 5C and your freezer temperature is below -15C.Allow cooked foods to cool to room temperature (about 21C) before storing in the refrigerator. This should not take more than two hours – cooling will be quicker if you put hot food into smaller containers rather than leaving it in one large one. This prevents the refrigerator temperature from rising and reduces the risk of bacterial growth in all food stored in the fridge.Cover all food with lids, tin foil or plastic wrap.Don’t store food in opened tin cans.
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