Consumer Home Refrigeration Practices: Results of a Web-Based Survey

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To reduce bacterial growth and to ensure the quality and safety of food products, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration advise consumers to clean their refrigerators regularly, use a refrigerator thermometer, and keep refrigerator temperatures at 40°F (4.4°C) or below. We conducted a nationally representative Web-enabled survey (n = 2,060) to collect data on refrigerator thermometer ownership, home refrigerator temperatures, and the frequency of home refrigerator cleaning. We stratified the sample to provide results for pregnant women, older adults (60 years or older), and the remaining population. About half of all respondents had cleaned their refrigerators at least 1 month before the survey. Only 11% of all respondents had a thermometer in their refrigerator before the survey. Older adults (77.5%) were more likely than the remaining population (70.4%) to have their refrigerators at the recommended temperature (P < 0.01). Older adults who were not married and who lived alone were less likely to have refrigerator thermometers and to have their refrigerators at a recommended temperature (P < 0.05). For all respondents, those who had previously owned a refrigerator thermometer were more likely to have their refrigerators at the recommended temperature than were respondents who did not previously own a thermometer (P < 0.01). Food safety educators can use the survey findings and results of previous research to target educational materials and help consumers, especially those at risk for listeriosis, to safely store refrigerated foods at home.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: RTI International, 3040 Cornwallis Road, P.O. Box 12194, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina 27709, USA 2: Department of Family and Consumer Sciences, Tennessee State University, 3500 John A. Merritt Boulevard, Nashville, Tennessee 37209, USA 3: The Sensory Analysis Center, Kansas State University, Justin Hall, Manhattan, Kansas 66506, USA

Publication date: July 1, 2007

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    First published in 1937, the Journal of Food Protection®, is a refereed monthly publication. Each issue contains scientific research and authoritative review articles reporting on a variety of topics in food science pertaining to food safety and quality. The Journal is internationally recognized as the leading publication in the field of food microbiology with a readership exceeding 11,000 scientists from 70 countries. The Journal of Food Protection® is indexed in Index Medicus, Current Contents, BIOSIS, PubMed, Medline, and many others.

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