Most of us get food poisoning at some point in our lives. In fact, an estimated 5.4 million Australians suffer this particular misery every year, the NSW Food Authority ( reports.

While most people recover fairly quickly, food poisoning can be downright dangerous, particularly for the vast number of Australians who fall into the “most vulnerable” group: unborn babies, young children, seniors, and people with poor immunity.

To prevent food poisoning, it’s important to always handle food with great care. This includes keeping a close eye on the food in your fridge, and throwing things out as soon as they may no longer be safe.

We share a few important guidelines:

Upper and middle shelves

The upper and middle shelves are suitable for dairy products, spreads, sauces, cream, leftovers and cooked food, as well as opened mayonnaise, mustard and tomato-sauce containers.

Storage guidelines:

    • Soups and stews containing meat: three to four days

    • Leftover pizza: three days

    • Salad dressing without preservatives: one week and with preservatives: one month

    • Margarine: three months

    • Cooked salads that contain mayonnaise: three to five days. If left at room temperature bacteria will flourish.

    • Fresh mixed salad: one day

    • Raw or leftover chicken: one to two days

    • Mayonnaise, tomato sauce and chutney: two months after being opened

Bottom shelf

Keep fresh meat on the bottom shelf or in a container to prevent meat juices from dripping on and contaminating other food. Animal protein spoils more easily and quickly than other foods. Keep meat as cool as possible and place it as far back in the fridge as you can.

Storage guidelines:

    • Raw or cooked fish: one to two days

    • Mince: one to two days

    • Ham: one to three weeks in a sealed container or until the expiry date, whichever comes first

    • Cooked leftover meat such as leg of lamb: two days

    • Whole, unpeeled fruit and vegetables (except bananas, unripe avocados, pumpkin, whole garlic cloves, potatoes and onions): no longer than a week

The fridge door

The fridge door is perfect for storing smaller items like eggs, cheese, sauces, milk, juice and nuts, and medicines.

Storage guidelines:

    • Fresh eggs: two to three weeks; hard-boiled eggs: one week

    • Cheese: soft cheeses: seven days; cream cheese: two weeks; cheddar: one month; parmesan: six months

    • Nuts and seeds: up to three months

    • Milk and fruit juice: five to seven days, or until the expiry date

    • Keep medicines in the door if they need to be refrigerated.

A few essential tips

Keep your food as fresh as possible with these important fridge tips:

    • The ideal temperature inside a fridge is more or less 4° Celsius. The freezer compartment, on the other hand, should be about -15° Celsius. Remember to adjust the fridge temperature as the weather gets warmer.

    • Don’t open the fridge door unnecessarily or leave it open. The fridge should also not be close to the stove or in a sunny spot in the kitchen.

    • Wash your fridge every two weeks with a weak solution of bleach and water.

    • Keep fresh food at the back of the fridge and try to use older food first.

    • Clean up anything that spills immediately.

    • Don’t overfill your fridge; it interferes with the airflow.

    • Look out for the following signs of danger:

        • Food changing colour or becoming mouldy

        • A slimy film on cold meat

        • Any strange smells or peculiar tastes

        • Lids popping off plastic containers

 What’s growing in your food?

This table shows which germs flourish in various foodstuffs, what signs to look out for, and how to prevent food going off.

The germs

The food

The solution

Salmonella (severe fever, cramps and diarrhoea) Meat, chicken, eggs and dairy products

    • Cook thoroughly.

    • Prevent cross-infection by not using the same cutting boards and knives.

Staphylococcus (severe vomiting) Custard and/or cream-filled baked dishes, ham, tongue, chicken, sauces, eggs, potato salad, creamy sauces and sandwich fillings

    • Keep food cool in the fridge.

    • Maintain good personal hygiene when handling food.

Clostridium botulinum (double vision, muscular paralysis) Homemade preserved food, meat, honey (in the case of babies under 12 months) sausage and fish

    • Preserve food correctly.

    • Cook food properly at high temperatures.

Clostridium perfringens (cramps, diarrhoea) Meat, chicken and any food that is kept at serving temperature for a long time (when catering for instance)

    • Cool food rapidly.

    • Reheat cooked food at temperatures of 60?C or higher.

Campylobacter jejeuni (stomach ache, diarrhoea, fever) Unpasteurised milk, eggs, water, chicken, raw beef and icing on cakes.

    • Buy pasteurised milk.

    • Cook food thoroughly.

    • Prevent cross-infection.

Escherica coli (severe stomachache, bloody stools) Mince, unpasteurised milk, chicken, lettuce, Brussels sprouts and salami

    • Cook food thoroughly.

    • Avoid cross-infection.

    • Maintain good personal hygiene when handling food.

Listeria (meningitis, backache) Vegetables, milk, cheese and seafood.

    • Buy pasteurised milk.

    • Cook food thoroughly.

    • Reheat cooked food or keep heated food at temperatures above 60?C.

    • Avoid cross-infection.

    • Don’t keep food in fridge for too long.

Bacillus (severe vomiting) Meat, rice, cooked cereal products and potatoes.

    • Refrigerate cooked food.

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