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What is a safe temperature for a refrigerator?

Updated February 21, 2017

Everyone wants to have food at their fingertips, but no one wants to get sick from food that went bad in the refrigerator. Keeping your refrigerator at a safe temperature can safeguard you from illness, but first you need to know what that safe temperature is and how to maintain it.

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Refrigerator Temperature

Bacterial growth appears to slow at around 4.44 degrees C. Since freezing occurs at 0 degrees C, the recommended safe temperature is between 0.00 and 4.44 degrees C.

Temperature Adjustment

The temperature dials on a refrigerator may need to be adjusted according to the season and amount of food in the refrigerator, since the dials regulate temperature but do not match a specific temperature degree.

Spot Checking

Because the cold air in a refrigerator will sink while the warm air will rise, you need to check the temperature at different spots of the refrigerator in order to be sure it is between 0.00 and 4.44 degrees C in the entire unit.

Frequent Use

Opening and closing the refrigerator door frequently when it is hot or humid will impact the temperature inside the unit and make it more difficult to keep the refrigerator within the safe temperature range.

Food Types

Placing foods in the refrigerator according to their type can help to prevent food spoilage. Because foods like lettuce have a high water content, for instance, they'll freeze more easily where the coldest air is.


Because cold air sinks and warm air rises, the most efficient refrigerators at maintaining safe temperature settings are those that have the freezer section on the bottom.

Additional Considerations

Proper refrigerator use and maintenance is imperative for keeping a safe refrigerator temperature. You can save yourself time, health worries and money by investigating how refrigerators work best (see Resources).

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About the Author

Wanda Thibodeaux

Wanda Thibodeaux is a freelance writer and editor based in Eagan, Minn. She has been published in both print and Web publications and has written on everything from fly fishing to parenting. She currently works through her business website, Takingdictation.com, which functions globally and welcomes new clients.

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