How Clean Is Your Refrigerator?
The germiest spot.
Multiple studies confirm that produce drawers host more life than a New York City subway during rush hour. "It’s an area we don’t always think about. But we use it often and store raw, unwashed veggies together with prewashed ones," notes Lisa Yakas, a microbiologist with NSF International, a nonprofit public-health organization "Dark, moist environments breed germs, even in the fridge."
Of the 14 areas tested in multiple kitchens, the 2013 NSF kitchen study found the produce compartment topped the list for most microbes, with yeast, mold, Salmonella and Listeria. Other germy winners included the water dispenser and the meat compartment. A study by Microban Europe (a company that develops antibacterial technology) also found the produce drawer to be the microbial hot spot—and included notorious E. coli 0157. When Tennessee State University microbiologists swabbed 137 household refrigerators, they found more than 23 percent were home to Klebsiella pneumoniae, which causes respiratory infections.
But no need to get all Howard Hughes. Wash the drawers weekly with dish soap under warm, running water, says Yakas. Dry them completely with a clean towel before reinserting. Ensuring your fridge stays at 40 degrees F or cooler is another effective way to reduce foodborne illness. Yakas recommends keeping produce packaged separately.
Next: Who are neighbors in your produce drawer? »