The packaging of many food items contains the words keep refrigerated.
For example, eggs are labeled as such and are accompanied by a temperature minimum of 45°F.
If there is no explicit mention of a certain temperature, how does one determine whether to place the product in the freezer or in another part of the refrigerator?
What does keep refrigerated mean?
Keep refrigerated is an instruction to store something in a refrigerator at between 35°F and 40°F, but ideally at around 35°F. The primary compartment of your refrigerator should be within the limits of the 35°F and 40°F temperature range.
What does “refrigeration” mean?
There’s a little confusion in the language. Fridges with freezers that are a combination of appliances (i.e., having two compartments, one above and one below) are very common.
More often than not, the entire appliance is called a fridge, but this is a misnomer.
It’s not appropriate to refer to the freezer compartment (or an individual freezer) as a “fridge”.
Instructions saying “put it in the fridge” or “refrigerate it” or “keep refrigerated,” refer to the fridge, not the freezer.
It’s very rare for items to have more precise instructions than those mentioned above, as people aren’t able to alter the temperature of their fridge quite exactly.
In real life, “refrigerated” means at or lower than 40°F, but above 35°F.
So, even if someone tries to store something slightly warmer, the hottest anyone can keep it at is 40°F.
Another storage method is required to keep food at temperatures above this upper limit.
For example, this is the reason why folks store potatoes in cellars, not fridges.
In terms of what can be frozen… the biggest issue is that freezing many times alters food items’ texture.
Fresh fruits and vegetables generally lose their structure after being frozen.
When these fruits and vegetables are thawed, they become mushy and lose their juice.
At that point, all they are good for is cooking.
Food items with less structure, such as dairy/cheese, meat, and many cooked foods, tend to survive being frozen in good condition.
Refrigeration and bacteria
Bacteria can be found everywhere in nature.
They live in the food we eat, in the water, in the air, even in the soil beneath our feet.
If they are nourished (food) as well as given moisture and kept at appropriate temperatures, they grow quickly, growing in numbers to the point that certain kinds of bacteria could cause illness.
Refrigeration slows bacterial growth.
Why we should refrigerate food
Food items are refrigerated to prevent yeasts, bacteria, and molds away from the temperature that they require to thrive.
The humidity control present in numerous refrigerators can also help slow the degradation of food items.
This will help ensure that the three ideal conditions for the growth of microorganisms are completely eliminated.
Refrigerators are essential as they keep food cool.
Without them, there would be no smoothies, ice cream, or even nicely cold apples.
People would have to visit stores every day to buy cold food items.
Keeping food chilled stops it from going bad.
Refrigeration vs. air conditioning
Refrigeration is the process of bringing down and maintaining the temperature of, and contents in, a given space.
Air conditioning regulates the air in large structures, typically, structures like buildings, aircraft, and ships.
Refrigeration and the control of bacteria
Most spoilage bacteria cannot grow at low temperatures, for example, in refrigerators.
However, certain bacteria like Listeria monocytogenes actually thrive under cold temperatures.
Should bacteria like Listeria monocytogenes be present, they will grow inside the refrigerator and may cause sickness.
Refrigeration is therefore never guaranteed to completely prevent food spoiling or developing an unpleasant taste or bad smell.
Refrigeration and protection against botulism
Refrigerators prevent the growth of Botulinum bacteria because they can’t be grown at temperatures lower than 53°F.
However, note that non-proteolytic strains of Botulinum can thrive in temperatures lower than 38°F.
Interestingly, if fridges are kept at the recommended temperature of 35°F, then even this strain of Botulinum cannot survive.
The refrigeration of “high-risk” foods
High-risk foods are those that are prepared for human consumption but don’t require any additional cooking yet allow bacteria to grow, live, and flourish.
Examples of high-risk foods are the preparation of fish and cooked meat.
More examples are gravy sauces, stock, sauces, soup, and shellfish.
The control of bacteria by freezing
The freezing process doesn’t kill germs or bacteria. In fact, it puts them in hibernation.
They’re inactive when they are eaten along with chilled and frozen foods.
They can “wake up” as soon as the food is thawed.
As the food melts, the warmth wakes the bacteria and the moisture will provide the bacteria with all the water they require to live.
How refrigeration works
The refrigerant absorbs heat within the refrigerator and cools the air.
The compressor compresses the refrigerant’s vapor, increasing the pressure and pushing it through the coils located on the fridge’s exterior.
The hot gas inside the coils is exposed to the cooler temperatures in your kitchen area, the gas turns into liquid.
The principles behind refrigeration
The refrigeration principle is, through heat pumps, refrigerants are compressed into condensers and capillary tubes.
This increases the temperature of the refrigerants in the compressors but decreases their temperatures in the device by the action of the accompanying condensing units.
As a result, temperatures in fridges or freezers drop by contact with the refrigerants.
The refrigeration cycle
The refrigeration cycle comprises four primary elements: evaporation device, expansion device, condenser, and compressor.
The refrigerant is piped between the four elements, encased within the refrigeration loop.
The initially cool vapor, the refrigerant, then goes to the compressor, which is the initial element in the refrigeration cycle.
It’s not just food–medication needs refrigeration too
Storage requirement: Room temperature
Temperature range: 59°F – 77°F
Storage requirement: Cool temperature
Temperature range: 46°F – 59°F
Storage requirement: Refrigerated temperature
Temperature range: 35°F – 46°F
Storage requirement: Freezing temperature
Temperature range: -13°F – 14°F
The storage, temperatures, and refrigeration of medicines
Based on the recommended temperature, you should select a location within the recommended temperature range.
Most medicines are best kept at temperatures of room temperature.
Medications can be stored in a drawer, a dresser, a storage box, a closet, or shelves.
What matters is the ambient temperature at which the medicines are being kept.
In general, it is recommended that all liquid medicines are advised to be stored in the refrigerator.
Liquid formulations, such as suspensions and syrups, may aid in the growth of microorganisms.
Thus, the growth of microorganisms can be slowed down by refrigeration.
In particular, liquid medications that are not preservative-free are recommended to be constantly refrigerated.
When refrigerating, ensure that medications are stored in a refrigerator area that maintains an even temperature.
If the medications contain preservatives, don’t put them in the refrigerator.
This is because the efficiency of the preservatives decreases as temperatures lower.
Thus, refrigerating these medicines reduces their efficiency.
Frequently Asked Questions About What Does Keep Refrigerated Mean
Without refrigeration, what could happen to food?
The US Department of Agriculture recommends that all food items be refrigerated or frozen within two hours of being left out. Freezing kills the bacteria in food. However, refrigerating merely reduces their number, meaning that food can still spoil even if left at an appropriate temperature in a refrigerator.
How should we refrigerate different types of food?
Keep ready-to-eat foods in the refrigerator’s upper area, far away from raw food. This ensures that harmful bacteria do not transfer from raw food into cooked food. Raw poultry, meat, and fish are kept in sealed containers to avoid them dripping onto or touching other food items.
Afterword: What does keep refrigerated mean?
Fortunately, refrigeration has a technical definition, so it is possible to precisely answer this question.
Refrigeration means maintaining an ambient temperature ranging between 35°F and 46°F.