Food Safety

Cold Storage

Iceboxes and refrigerators keep food cold and control the growth of harmful bacteria. Until the invention of refrigeration (ca. 1890), people who lived in cold climates would store certain kinds of food in ice or snow, or in an underground root cellar. Even well into the twentieth century, many homes had a cold storage room or a root cellar.


Archives of Ontario C 130-1-0-23-51

Blocks of ice, cut from lakes and ponds, were used to keep food cold.
Ice Tongs, ca. 1900
Artifact no. 1973.0222

The iceman carried blocks of ice into customers' homes using these tongs. Depending on the size of the icebox, the blocks could weigh up to 23 kilograms (50 pounds).


Refrigeration will slow, but not stop, the growth of microbes.

Freezing will stop most bacteria from growing, but will not destroy them.

Canada Agriculture and Food Museum: Agriculture Canada Collection

Carrots stored in sphagnum moss in a root cellar, 1941

“Goodwin” Icebox, ca. 1920
Goodwin's Ltd., Montreal, Quebec
Artifact no. 2001.0241

Iceboxes kept perishable foods — such as milk and butter — fresh. A block of ice placed in the top of the insulated box kept the contents cold.

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