The lack of data on consumer refrigeration temperatures and storage times limits our ability to assess and manage risks associated with microbial hazards. This study addressed these limitations by collecting data on temperatures and storage handling practices of chilled foods. Consumers from 102 households in Uppsala, Sweden, were instructed to purchase seven food items (minced meat, fresh herring fillets, soft cheese, milk, sliced cooked ham, vacuum-packed smoked salmon, and ready-to-eat salad) and to store them using their normal practices. They were interviewed the next day, and food temperatures were measured. In general, there were no significant relations between temperature and characteristics of the respondents (e.g., sex, age, education, age of the refrigerator). Mean storage temperatures ranged from 6.2°C for minced meat to 7.4°C for ready-to-eat salad. Maximum temperatures ranged from 11.3 to 18.2°C. Data were not significantly different from a normal distribution, except for ready-to-eat salad, although distributions other than the normal fitted data better in most cases. Five percent to 20% of the food items were stored at temperatures above 10°C. Most respondents knew the recommended maximum temperature, but less than one fourth claimed to know the temperature in their own refrigerator. Practical considerations usually determined where food was stored. For products with a long shelf life, stated storage times were different for opened and unopened packages. The current situation might be improved if consumers could be persuaded to use a thermometer to keep track of refrigerator temperature.

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