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Freezing in the Top Shelf of a Refrigerator

Ann Frederick

To ensure food safety, the United States Department of Agriculture says you must keep the fresh-food compartment of your refrigerator at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. But storing food in a refrigerator that gets too cold can be a costly proposition. Tomatoes, lettuce and other groceries have to be thrown out if they get frozen inside your refrigerator. Investigating a few potential culprits can help you determine what’s causing freezing in the top shelf of your refrigerator.

Temperature Setting

Lettuce can freeze if your refrigerator gets too cold.

Raise the temperature setting on your refrigerator’s fresh-food section incrementally to eliminate freezing. Your appliance needs up to 24 hours to reach the new temperature setting. To make sure the refrigerator remains at 40 degrees or lower, use an appliance thermometer to verify the interior temperature.

Air Flow

Your refrigeration compartment might get too cold if its air flow is restricted. Do not place items directly in front of the air vents inside the appliance. In some models, you can find a vent in the top left rear corner of the appliance. Check your owner’s manual for locations specific to your model.

Icemaker Issue

If your refrigerator came with an ice maker but is not hooked up to a water supply, turn off the ice maker. Maytag says, if it is left on, the ice maker will try to produce ice and this can result in overly low temperatures in the refrigeration section.

Avoid Cold Spots

GE says the coldest place in a top-freezer refrigerator is the back of the top shelf. This is because cold air coming into the refrigeration compartment from the freezer enters in this area. The manufacturer advises customers to avoid placing delicate foods in this spot. Sealed crisper drawers offer the best storage spot for fruits and vegetables. Fruits need lower humidity settings, while vegetables require higher humidity.

Food Storage Tips

When placing packages of fresh meat or seafood in the refrigerator, enclose them in a plastic bag or sealed container to keep their juices from leaking. Avoid keeping perishable foods in the refrigerator door, where temperatures can fluctuate. The USDA says fresh eggs in their shells can last three to five weeks if stored in a carton and on a shelf, not in the door. Use raw egg whites and yolks within four days. Most cooked, leftover food should also be eaten within four days. The USDA website offers detailed information on proper storage time for various types and cuts of meat.