So someone here at home tweaked the thermostat on the fridge and raised to its maximum (coldest) level, and now a few of my housemates are really upset because the resulting decrease in temperature allegedly caused their vegetables to spoil.

This doesn't make sense to me, as I understand that food will spoil if the fridge (or any environment for that matter) is too -warm-, not cold.

Nevertheless, these guys will adjust the thermostat whenever its 'too high' to them and this naturally causes other food, like my leftovers, cheeses, and fresh milk, to spoil.

Is there any truth to their claims? Can food spoil in a fridge (I do mean fridge, and not freezer) that's too cold?

2 Answers 2


It depends on what you mean by "spoil".

The purpose of the fridge is to prevent food from growing pathogenic organisms. There is a clear dependence there: The colder the environment, the slower food gets "spoiled", or unsafe to eat.

But we also want our food to be tasty. And cold temperature does change the texture and taste of some foods, especially fruit and vegetables. If it stays above freezing, some of them still get unpleasant, especially tomatoes and tropical fruit. The worse problem is if the temperature gets below freezing. Then everything turns mushy and unpleasant. And because fridges do not have a very precise temperature control (due to imprecise sensors but also to the fact that the temperature and humidity varies throughout the space of the fridge), a thermostat set too high can lead to temperatures below freezing at least in some parts of the fridge, rendering some vegetables, specifically green salads, practically inedible.

On this one, I side with your roommates. I have never seen a fridge which had it necessary to turn the thermostat all the way up. Milk and cooked food does great at temperatures just below 4 degrees C, which for most fridges I've seen corresponds to a middle setting. Expiry dates are based on this temperature. Cheese actually prefers higher temperatures, like 15 degrees, people just keep it in the fridge because they lack a better space in a typical kitchen. Setting the thermostat on the highest setting gets the fridge around, sometimes even below, the freezing point, and yes, it makes it impossible to keep vegetables in the fridge (I've seen them turn bad in the closed vegetable drawer too), and wastes lots of energy besides.


I am doing an experiment on fruit, testing which fruit will rot faster, and I discovered that the fruit in the refrigerator decayed/rotted faster.

  • 4
    Hello and welcome to the site. Your answer is quite interesting. Perhaps you would edit it a bit: What was the setup of the experiment, which kind of fruit did you try and where did you store the fruit that was not refrigerated. Could you back up your results with numbers? Like "Fruit A developed mold after n days in the counter vs. m days in the fridge" or "Fruit B shriveled up at day x..." . This would IMHO make this a really valuable answer!
    – Stephie
    Feb 6, 2015 at 7:28
  • 1
    And to add to what Stephie said -- it would also be good to know what the fridge temp was vs. your room temperature, and any specifics on the storage (was it in the crisper? on the door of the fridge? In a dark cabinet or out on the countertop? Was it in a well-ventilated place?)
    – Joe
    May 10, 2015 at 2:46

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.