Spring has sprung, which means seasonal home cleaning is in full swing, but it’s not just messy things to worry about – there are over 1.8 million units of bacteria lurking in your fridge.
These invisible microbes have been linked to respiratory and urinary tract infections, food poisoning and miscarriages in pregnant women.
And the dirtiest places in the refrigerator are the vegetable and meat drawers and shelves where dairy products are stored.
Most bacteria that thrive in refrigerators develop from unwashed vegetables or cross-contamination, so experts recommend covering all food before placing it inside.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) notes that leftovers should be placed in airtight containers to prevent bacterial growth and placed on top shelves.
The agency warns against keeping eggs not at the door, but in the box and on a shelf.
More than 1.8 million bacterial units lurk in your fridge. These invisible microbes have been linked to respiratory and urinary tract infections, food poisoning and miscarriages in pregnant women
Spring cleaning dates back to 3,000 years ago, when the ancient Persians took part in a springtime tradition called Khāne-takānī, meaning “to shake the house.”
It was believed that sweeping up dust and removing clutter from one’s home would prevent misfortune in the coming year.
And people still keep the tradition thousands of years later.
Nearly eight in 10 Americans report spring cleaning at least once a year, usually around or after the first day of spring, March 20.
The refrigerator may be one of the last places people think they’ll attack with a scrubber, but the container contains bacteria that lead to illness.
Two different families of microbes live in your refrigerator: pathogenic bacteria and spoilage bacteria.
Pathogenic bacteria thrive in the “Danger Zone,” between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
This group causes foodborne illness, but typically does not affect the taste, smell, or appearance of food.
Spoilage bacteria can grow at low temperatures, such as in the refrigerator, and are detected when the food goes bad.
Listeria is a pathogenic bacteria that mainly affects pregnant women, children and the elderly.
In pregnant women, listeriosis can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, and serious illness or death of newborn babies.
Listeria is a pathogenic bacteria that mainly affects pregnant women, children and the elderly. In pregnant women, listeriosis can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, and severe illness or death of newborn babies (pictured is a 3D illustration of the bacteria on flesh)
The refrigerator may be one of the last places people think they’ll attack with a scrubber, but the container contains bacteria that lead to disease
Symptoms of the infection include fever, stiff neck, confusion, weakness, and vomiting, sometimes preceded by diarrhea.
The incubation period can be 3 to 70 days and the illness can last for days or weeks depending on the person’s health before the illness takes hold.
Listeria can survive on cold surfaces and multiply slowly at 24 degrees Fahrenheit.
And this deadly bacteria can be found everywhere in the refrigerator, especially where meat and dairy products are stored.
A study conducted in 2019in which scientists took five swabs from different locations in 10 refrigerators, 19 of the 50 samples found Aeromonas bacteria, Enterobactera clocae and Klebsiella oxytoca.
Aeromonas bacteria are associated with gastrointestinal infections, leading from watery diarrhea to dysenteric or bloody diarrhea.
Enterobacter cloacae can cause bone and heart infections, while Klebsiella oxytoca is associated with serious infections leading to septic shock.
The fridge isn’t the only playground for germs, though — they thrive on kitchen countertops, sponges, and rags, and the more than 500,000 units live in sink drains.