By Jennifer Copley (Last Updated 18 October 2008)
To prevent food poisoning, meats and dairy products should not be stored past their use-by dates in the refrigerator and recommended food storage guidelines should be followed for frozen items to ensure quality. Most meats will keep for several months in the freezer as long as they’re stored in a freezer bag or wrapped tightly in plastic wrap.
Freezing meats which prevents bacterial growth but doesn’t kill existing bacteria; to kill bacteria, high heat is required. Other ways to reduce the risk of meat-related food poisoning include:
- Storing raw meat on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator to prevent its juices from dripping onto other foods
- Transferring meat to the freezer if it is not consumed within a day of preparing
- Thawing meat in the refrigerator rather than on the counter at room temperature
- Cooking meat immediately after thawing in a microwave
- Washing hands in hot soapy water after touching raw meats
- Using a different cutting board and utensils for meats and foods that will be served raw such as salads (or washing the board in hot, soapy water between uses)
- Using different utensils for raw meats and cooked meats
- Never putting cooked foods on plates where raw meat products have been placed
- Cooking meat until there is no pinkness in the center
- Cooling leftovers in the fridge rather than on the counter at room temperature
- Making sure leftovers are heated through when cooking in a microwave
- Never refreezing thawed meat that has not been cooked
- Never reheating leftovers more than once
- Using or freezing leftovers within a day of preparation
- Washing dishes with soap and very hot water, starting with glasses and ending with greasy dishes, pots, and pans
See How Long Foods Keep for informaton on how long various types of meat can typically be stored in a fridge or freezer.
For more food and drink articles, see the main Nutrition and Food page.
- Clemson University’s Home and Garden Information Center. (n.d.). “Food Storage: Refrigerator and Freezer.” Clemson.edu.
- Food Marketing Institute. (2001). “Food Storage Information.” FMI.org.
- Sidney South West Area Health Service. (n.d.). “If I buy it, how long will it last?” CS.NSW.gov.au.
- USDA. (2005). “Freezing and Food Safety.” FSIS.USDA.gov.