How to Clean and Sanitize Your Refrigerator After A Food Recall

You’re not imagining it–food recalls are occurring more frequently than ever before. In fact, food recalls are happening almost daily in the United States, striking everything from onions and romaine lettuce to packaged cookie dough and dairy, eggs, meats, and more. According to a report published in 2019 by the Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), the total number of food recalls in the U.S. increased by 10% between 2013 and 2018, hitting a peak of 905 in 2016. Class I recalls (those based on “reasonable probability” the food product will cause adverse health complications) of meat and poultry rose by 83% during this period, the report says. 

Most people know not to eat or drink the recalled products and throw them out. However, there’s one thing that’s easy to forget regarding food recalls: cross-contamination. 

Recalled food is often contaminated with harmful pathogens, such as E. coli, Listeria, or Salmonella. At the time of writing this article, a nationwide pork recall has expanded to more than 2.3 million pounds of pork and pepperoni products due to possible Listeria monocytogenes contamination. Another active case is recalling nearly 300,000 pounds of raw beef products due to possible E. coli contamination. And recalls on whole, yellow, red, and white onions have been extended due to the potential risk of Salmonella.

Suppose a recalled product has been stored inside your refrigerator. In that case, it could contaminate other surfaces and items in your fridge through packaging, spills, or leaks, which can lead to foodborne illness, more commonly referred to as food poisoning. 

Food poisoning is incredibly common; The U.S. Food & Drug Administration estimates that there are 48 million foodborne illness cases each year, which means about 1 in 6 Americans become sick from contaminated food. Food poisoning can lead to hospitalization or even death for vulnerable people. 

Why are food recalls becoming more common, and how can you prevent cross-contamination after a food recall? We have the details for you here. 

Why Are Food Recalls Happening So Often? 

According to Jaydee Hanson, Policy Director at the Center for Food Safety, farms cultivating fresh produce may also raise livestock or border animal farms. As a result, the risk of cross-contamination from animal manure and runoff increases. Bacteria such as E. coli can contaminate the soil in which those crops are growing. For instance, the E. coli that contaminated romaine lettuce in Yuma County, Arizona, in 2018 is believed to have been sourced from a nearby cattle feedlot. 

Often, food recalls are issued before anyone even reportedly gets sick in an attempt to prevent widespread illness. However, not all recalls are issued due to foodborne illness or prevention. Some foods may be recalled due to the presence of undeclared food allergens, meaning the product contains a specific allergen that is not included on the ingredient label. Other times, foods may contain extraneous materials, such as metal, plastic, and rubber. 

When food is recalled due to the presence of pathogens, it’s essential to clean and sanitize your refrigerator and anywhere else the contaminated products may have touched to avoid cross-contamination. 

Vital Oxide is a multi-purpose cleaner and NSF-certified (no-rinse required) food-contact sanitizer. Vital Oxide kills 99.9% of bacteria – including common foodborne pathogens such as Escherichia coli (E. coli), Salmonella enterica, Norovirus, Staphylococcus aureus (Staph), and Listeria monocytogenes –  without leaving a harmful chemical residue. 

Here are some tips on how to clean and sanitize your refrigerator after a food recall: 

How to Clean and Sanitize Your Refrigerator After a Food Recall 

  1. Discard any recalled food and any other foods stored with it or touching it. If the recalled food was stored in a reusable container, wash it with hot, soapy water and sanitize it with Vital Oxide before reusing it. To sanitize, simply spray the container with Vital Oxide and let it sit for at least 60 seconds. 
  2. Empty the rest of the food items in your refrigerator (just make sure not to leave unrefrigerated food out for more than 2 hours). 
  3. Take out drawers, shelving, and any other removable parts.  
  4. Wash drawers, shelving, and any other removable parts with hot, soapy water. Ensure that any glass shelves or compartments come to room temperature before washing; otherwise, they may crack under the hot water. 
  5. Thoroughly wipe the inside of the empty refrigerator with paper towels dampened with Vital Oxide to clean, making sure to completely remove any food particles, spills, crumbs, or other debris. Remember to clean the inside of the fridge doors, the walls, and any drawers or compartments that cannot be removed.
  6. After your refrigerator and drawers, shelves, and other removable parts are clean, apply Vital Oxide by wiping with a microfiber cloth or spraying, and let sit for at least 60 seconds to sanitize. Vital Oxide can be diluted for food-contact sanitizing; mix 1 part Vital Oxide to 9 parts water. 
  7. Return the sanitized drawers, shelves, and other removable parts into the clean refrigerator. 
  8. Wipe down food and drink containers with a cloth dampened with Vital Oxide before returning to the clean refrigerator. 
  9. Use a cloth dampened with Vital Oxide to wipe kitchen countertops that held refrigerator parts and contents. 
  10. Wash your hands with warm water and soap once you’ve finished cleaning. 

At Vital Oxide, we’re proud to offer a revolutionary product that’s powerful enough to kill 99.9% of viruses and bacteria without harsh chemicals or alarming safety ratings. If you have any questions, please Contact Us or Send Us a Message on Facebook. We’re here to help. 

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