Traditionally many foods have been preserved without being stored in the fridge because they contain high quantities of salt or sugar which are used as preservatives. However, as we are being told we need to eat less salt for our heart’s health, and less sugar to reduce obesity, manufacturers are being urged by government departments to reduce sugar and salt in items we buy regularly. This means that items which previously could live on the pantry shelf are no longer “shelf stable” – in other words, they need something else to stop mould and bacteria growing – and storing in the fridge is how it’s done without adding any chemical preservatives.
I have been asked a number of times to comment on this story this week and sadly had to miss some TV appearances as I was abroad, but really it is quite simple to decide what goes in the fridge and what does not need to be chilled – read the label!
Manufacturers need to tell you on the label the shelf life of the food and how to store it. We see “Use By” for short shelf life and “Best Before” for long shelf life. If it has a “Use By” chances are you bought it from the chill counter and you need to store it in the fridge. “Best Before” foods are longer shelf life foods such as frozen foods – obviously keep them frozen, eggs (refrigerate) and other items such as canned or bottled food can be kept in the kitchen cupboard. However once opened, follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Whilst some foods are fine left in the cupboard after opening, others are not. For example, my bottle of HP sauce, which contains high levels of vinegar (also a preservative), sugar and salt is fine to keep in the cupboard, but mango chutney, according to its label, should be refrigerated after opening and used within 6 weeks.
So in relation to cupboard staples and produced, what are the fridge rules?
What NEEDS to be in the fridge after opening
- Low sugar jam
- Mango chutney
- Ketchup (if it says so on the label)
- Tartare sauce
- Anything that says keep in the fridge on the label
What should you NOT keep in the fridge?
- Marmite – try getting it out of a squeezy bottle if you put it in the fridge!
- Bread – goes stale!*
- Whole tropical fruit (goes brown)*
- Bananas (go brown)*
- Potatoes (make more starch in the fridge and more acrylamide if made into chips or roasters)
What need not be in the fridge?
- Avocados if you want them to ripen (fine if they are ripe)
- Whole tomatoes
- Unopened bottles and cans
- Apples, pears (unless you want to stop them ripening)
*Freeze if you want to keep longer
Finally – chocolate – in or out? Very much a matter of choice, and no safety reason either way, but some people swear it tastes better cold, others think completely the opposite!