“Where do you keep your tomato sauce?”
It’s a question almost everyone has asked when trying to find it at a friend’s house -- after which you stubbornly defend your choice to store it in the fridge or pantry.
So where should we really keep these common (and much-debated) condiments, spreads and dairy products?
“In the old days a lot of us used to keep tomato sauce in the pantry, but since then these products have gotten a lot healthier, so they’ve got less unhealthy preservatives in them like salt,” Lydia Buchtmann, spokeswoman for the Food Safety Information Council, told The Huffington Post Australia.
“So that means you need to be refrigerating. The first thing you should to do is actually look on the labels of the products and usually it will say, ‘keep refrigerated once opened',” Buchtmann said.
Jams & Pickles
As with tomato sauce, because jams and pickles have become more healthy by using less sugar and preservatives, storing these in your fridge is the best option, according to Buchtmann.
Verdict: Pantry, then fridge once opened
“Once you open long life milk you’ve got to use it like normal milk -- and not wait until it’s use-by date.”
Once again, follow the instructions on the chocolate.
“Sometimes it says not to refrigerate as it that can affect the quality of the chocolate, especially if it’s dark chocolate," Buchtmann said.
“However, when buying those nice, fancy home-made chocolates, be particularly careful -- some of them might be made with cream or eggs, and that could be a food safety risk, so they may need to be refrigerated."
“People often say Vegemite lasts forever -- and it can stay in the pantry because it’s high in salt," Buchtmann said.
Peanut Butter/Nut Butter
Verdict: Pantry (mostly)
“They’re okay out in the pantry as, once again, they’re usually high in salt,” Buchtmann said. “But you also get ones that are reduced salt, so check the label -- don’t take that for granted."
While regular soy sauce can be stored in the pantry, salt-reduced soy sauce should be kept in the fridge.
“I’ve got a lower salt soy sauce and that says 'keep refrigerated'," Buchtmann explained. “So you need to look out for that.”
Verdict: Pantry (mostly)
“Fruit is fine to leave out and to consume once it’s ripe -- unless they're already ripe,” Buchtmann said.
The fruits to refrigerate immediately after purchase include berries, figs and grapes.
“One thing to remember with fruit and vegetables is not to wash them until just before you’re going to eat them,” Buchtmann told HuffPost Australia.
“It’s because it makes them damp and can encourage mould to grow."
“If it’s shelf stable in a jar or bottle it’s fine to have in the pantry, but once you’ve opened it, mayonnaise needs to be stored in the fridge and used by its best before date.”
But homemade mayo is a different story.
“If you make your homemade mayonnaise using a raw egg, it is a really risky food -- we've seen so many cases of food poisoning,” Buchtmann explained.
“If you do make it, eat it fresh and straight away -- and don’t feed it to people who are at risk of food poisoning -- so the elderly, little kids and people with poor immune systems.”
“Now there is some debate -- some people keep butter out, but of course in the Australian heat it doesn't last. So once again look at the instructions of the storage.”
As a general rule, due to butter's high fat and salt content, storing butter on the bench does not pose a high food poisoning risk.
“Check that your fridge is running 5 degrees celsius or below. If it’s running higher than that it’s not doing any good whatsoever," Buchtmann told HuffPost Australia. “So my advice is to pop to your kitchen shop and get a fridge thermometer.”
Unsure about how to store eggs? Read up on the debate.