Food storage temperature requirements

Updated March 23, 2017

Maintaining a safe, healthy kitchen starts with how your food is handled. Food that is not being stored properly, at the correct temperatures, can cause serious illness. Guidelines from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and other critical factors can be used to determine measures of food safety in your kitchen. Maintaining your refrigeration and storage units can also ensure that the food you are preparing and serving remains safe for your family.


The USDA recommends that perishable foods such as meat, eggs, dairy products and leftovers be refrigerated within two hours of the time of purchase or cooking. During the summer months, if the outside temperature rises to about 32.2 degrees C, perishable foods should be refrigerated within one hour.

Perishable and Frozen Foods

Foods must be stored in a refrigerator that maintains a temperature between 0.00 and 4.44 degrees C. Check your unit at regular intervals to ensure the temperature remains at a properly functioning level. Purchasing an appliance thermometer, sold in most supermarkets, and affixing it to the inside of your refrigerator provides additional insurance that the unit is working properly. Frozen foods must be kept at a temperature of -17.8 degrees C or below. Again, an appliance thermometer can be an extra check for this purpose.

Canned and Dry Goods

Canned foods and dry goods, such as grains, beans and flour, need to be stored in a cool, dry and dark environment with a relatively stable temperature, since extreme fluctuations in temperature can be damaging. A good temperature range for canned- and dry-food storage is between 10.0 and 21.1 degrees C, according to the California Department of Education. To prevent exposing foods to extreme temperatures, do not store near areas of high heat, such as above an oven, under the sink near hot water pipes, or in a damp, cold environment such as a basement or a garage.

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About the Author

Nikki Jardin began freelance writing in 2009 and focuses on food and travel articles. She has been a professional cook and caterer for more than 20 years. She holds a degree in environmental science from Humboldt State University.