Consumer home refrigeration practices: Results of a web-based survey
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.