A lot of families look forward to preparing well-loved family recipes during the holidays. After all it is that time of the year, when a lot of people even travel miles just to be with loved ones. While the holidays can be a great time to display your culinary skills, proper food storage should be observed in order to avoid food-borne illnesses.

Small amounts of bacteria can naturally be found in foods. However, poor handling, improper cooking and storage will allow the bacterial to multiply, which can then cause disease. Aside from bacteria, parasites, toxins, viruses, and chemicals can also cause contamination.

Individuals who ingested these infectious organisms may have varied complaints. This is due to the fact that the symptoms of food poisoning vary, depending on the source of contamination. The usual complaints are nausea, diarrhea, vomiting and abdominal pain, which start hours after eating contaminated food.

One of the best ways to prevent food-borne illnesses is by proper food storage. Foods that need to be refrigerated should be put inside the fridge the moment you get home. There is actually a “two hour rule” in which you need to get seafood, poultry, meat, eggs, or other produce inside the refrigerator. These food items should not be allowed to sit for more than two hours at room temperature. If the temperature is above 90 degrees Fahrenheit, these food items should not be allowed to sit at room temperature for more than an hour. Refrigerator temperature should also be maintained at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. Likewise, the temperature inside the freezer should be at 0 degrees Fahrenheit. It may be good to purchase refrigerator and freezer thermometers. These are generally cheap, and should be placed inside the refrigerator and the freezer. Check temperatures at least once a week to ensure safe food storage.

If it will take some time for you to get your groceries home, use an ice chest for temporary storing frozen and perishable goods. When the weather is warm, do not place your groceries in the trunk. Instead, place them inside the passenger compartment because it is generally cooler due to the air conditioner.

Make it a habit to read labels regarding storage directions and expiration dates. If you have forgotten to keep some food items inside the fridge, it may be best to throw them away. Some refrigerated ready to eat food items, should also be consumed as soon as possible because there is a greater chance of bacteria to grow. It can especially occur if the temperature is above 40 degrees Fahrenheit inside the refrigerator.

The refrigerator should also be cleaned frequently. Spills should be immediately cleaned to reduce the growth of bacteria. Foods stored in the fridge should also be covered in order to prevent contamination. Throw away food items that look suspicious or moldy. Marinate food inside the refrigerator because bacteria can multiply quickly at room temperature. The marinating liquid should never be reused if it has not been boiled. Leftovers should also be stored in tight lid containers.

Foods that are properly handled and stored in the freezer are generally safe. Freezing will not kill most bacteria but it can stop bacterial growth. Freezing will also not reduce a nutritional value of a food item. However, food items that have been stored for a long period may have an effect on a food’s aroma, tenderness, juiciness, and color.

Regularly check your stocked canned goods for damage. Throw cans that have swelled and rusted extensively. Discard as well cans with leakage, holes, punctures, and those that have been severely dented. Never store food items near chemicals and any cleaning products. It is also not wise to store food items under the sink because a leak from the pipes may cause contamination. It is advisable to store food items in a cool, dry place in order to prevent bacteria growth.

Individuals may take for granted proper food storage because it has been part of our routine every time we go grocery shopping. However, proper food storage is one way of protecting your loved ones from food-borne illnesses. Storing food properly will not take a lot of your time, but it is the best way to ensure safety for your entire family. More importantly, proper food storage should not only be observed during the holidays, but throughout the year as well.