this question outdated by ~7 years -- What temperatures should I keep my refrigerator and freezer set at? --

ask how much temp a fridge or freezer should be at

but im very confused about how much difference is a degree or 10?

like if i leave it at 45 or 55, is it not ok?

on http://www.explainthatstuff.com/refrigerator.html

it says if you leave it cooler, the food would last longer

but how much longer?

i've kept vegs and other food for way longer than than what is 'advised' and they were completely fine

like the two popular 'when does X expire' -- stilltasty & eatbydate

these sites and likely other advise a 'super safe' date of when you throw out perfectly good stuff/food

brown rice is completely find way past the days claimed on https://www.quora.com/Can-I-keep-brown-rice-in-the-fridge-for-a-week-in-a-ziplock-without-it-going-bad

and some ppl say it's perfectly safe

on http://www.stilltasty.com/questions/index/90/

it claims that 'important to keep the temperature of your refrigerator at or below 40° F.'

if it's warmer than that, it claims that the 'types of bacteria that can cause both food spoilage and foodborne illness will multiply too quickly'

so are we saying before that temp, food would multiply at a 2x rate?

but then if you go above that temp, then food would multiply at a 100x rate? not sure what 'too quickly' means. is it really 'too quickly' or is it just fine?

it also says 'can cause' -- so like a 1% chance or a 99% chance

this info matters a lot to make good decision

you 'can' die every time you drive or fly a plane, does that mean you never drive or fly or go anywhere?

if fridge temp mattered so much -- life or death importance

then why don't fridge actually show temp? or show the temp on the temp control? as also seen on http://www.consumerreports.org/refrigerators/best-refrigerator-temperature-to-keep-food-fresh/

if it was actually important? im sure one day the leading edge fridge would make this 'innovation', this basic innovation happen.

please help as best you can as the previous question was helped

really appreciate a helpful answer among all this info everywhere

  • 3
    Obligatory xkcd for people that keep misunderstanding probability. Commented Jul 2, 2017 at 7:36
  • Any answers to your questions would be pure conjecture. The best thing you can do is use the guidelines for proper refrigerator and freezer temps. No one can tell you how much faster bacteria will multiply or what the odds are of becoming ill if you store food outside of the recommended temperatures. Additionally it would be irresponsible for anyone to give advice that it is okay not to follow safety standards (regardless of what they do) because there is a risk involved.
    – Cindy
    Commented Jul 2, 2017 at 12:21
  • what's the best link to useful probability that specifically would be applied here that everyone should learn in life? @WillemvanRumpt
    – ambw
    Commented Jul 3, 2017 at 1:43
  • 1
    Safe food storage temperatures don't go out of date. So your opening reason for repeating this asked and answered question is wrong.
    – Ecnerwal
    Commented Jul 3, 2017 at 1:44
  • Possible duplicate of What temperatures should I keep my refrigerator and freezer set at?
    – Ecnerwal
    Commented Jul 3, 2017 at 1:45

1 Answer 1


The only answer we can realistically give is that higher temperatures make enough of a difference that at least some food safety agencies don't recommend it.

Some foods will be affected more than others in terms of quality, e.g. some vegetables do fine at room temperature for some time, while some will spoil rather quickly. And in terms of safety, it's similar: if something's not significantly contaminated, while if it's got something nasty in it the lower temperature helps stop it from growing, but you never really know when you've gotten unlucky (it's not like you can see bacteria).

So overall, the answer is just to keep it under 40F/4C, i.e. pretty much as cool as you can without it starting to freeze in patches, to err on the side of safety.

Your comparisons to the risk of driving or flying don't really make a lot of sense to me. Sure, there's some risk in all kinds of things. But when you decide whether to take a risk, you weigh the risk against the cost of avoiding it. Keeping your fridge at 40F instead of 45F or 50F barely costs you anything, just a little bit more electricity. And in exchange, you drastically reduce your risk of really unpleasant foodborne illness, and you keep your food fresh longer (and waste less money throwing out spoiled food).

As for why fridges don't come with built-in thermometers... well, some do, and it's a nice feature. But it's also not really necessary for this purpose. All you have to do to ensure that you're at a sufficiently low temperature is adjust it as cold as you can without things freezing. As long as the air circulation isn't horrible, at that point the whole fridge should be under 40F.

  • 1 - do you know which food safety agencies in highly developed nations do not recommend what most food safety agencies suggest? -- 2 - so if something is not contaminated, it's fine? -- 3 - 'you drastically reduce your risk' - i haven't seen or experienced any evidence for this claim tho, we also don't know what's the % the risk is actually reduced by, it's important to know, there's not any clear gains for keeping it cooler, also it seems like the specific items actually matters -- 4 - fridges is one of the highest % of electric use, and that's replying to 'showing temp is not really needed'
    – ambw
    Commented Jul 3, 2017 at 3:17
  • (1) I know the US agencies recommend the temperatures you mentioned, and I didn't look at anything else when writing this. I think Europe might be similar but maybe a bit higher. (2) I mean, yes, if theoretically something has no bad bacteria it'll be safe (though it may lose quality faster) but there's absolutely no way to know whether this is the case. Contamination, even to the point of growth that could make you seriously ill, is often undetectable.
    – Cascabel
    Commented Jul 3, 2017 at 4:51
  • (3) The easy evidence is the fact that food safety agencies recommend it, and the deeper evidence is research on growth rates of various common foodborne pathogens at various temperatures, e.g. hi-tm.com/RFA/food-path-summ.pdf (4) Depends; many other appliances can easily take more than it (ACs, sufficient computer/TV/video game consoles), but in any case the amount of money you'll spend to cool to 5C instead of 10C is not that large, especially compared to everyday increased food waste from faster spoilage, or to medical bills for even one serious illness in the long term.
    – Cascabel
    Commented Jul 3, 2017 at 4:54

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