The great ketchup debate is on.
On Monday, the “Today” questioned whether you should keep your ketchup in the fridge or the pantry after you open it. Opinions on the show ― as well as the internet ― were divided. It was pointed out that ketchup in restaurants sits out on tables, but then Matt Lauer cited Heinz’s website to end the debate. Below is the full statement on the company’s FAQ section:
Because of its natural acidity, Heinz ketchup is shelf-stable. However, its stability after opening can be affected by storage conditions. We recommend that this product be refrigerated after opening. Refrigeration will maintain the best product quality after opening.
A food safety consultant and a microbiologist who spoke to Vice confirmed Heinz’s stance that it’s all about quality: Store-bought ketchup’s acidity and low pH will indeed keep it from spoiling outside the fridge, but it will begin to deteriorate and may change color. That’s in part because air, which carries mold and bacteria, enters the bottle every time you open and close it.
“If you put it in the refrigerator, you’ll have six months of shelf life,” food safety consultant Jeff Nelken told Vice. “If you leave it at room temp, when it hits 30 days, you’ll smell and see a difference in the quality of the ketchup, [and] it will have a funky taste or funky smell.”
We decided to reach out to a few other ketchup brands ― Hunt’s, Annie Naturals, Del Monte and Muir Glen ― to see what they recommended in terms of storage. Would anyone disagree?
Hunt’s: “It’s all a matter of preference,” a spokesperson told HuffPost. “Hunt’s has great tomato taste in the fridge or right off the shelf. It’s truly a matter of choice.”
Muir Glen: “Ketchup can last up to 3 months in a refrigerator set below 40 degrees F,” said a customer relations representative. “If the product has been opened, then its best to store in the fridge.”
Annie’s: “When it comes to the question of where the ketchup belongs, ‘the pantry or refrigerator,’ we’re in a bit of a squeeze,” said pun-loving Jake Ellerbrock, senior brand manager at Annie’s. “When we thought more about it, shook well and turned the whole thing upside down, we decided the best place for Annie’s Organic Ketchup is the fridge…once it’s been opened. For starters, when a new ketchup bottle is opened, it’s typically not used all at once, and we imagine that our simple, certified organic recipe would also want to be in close proximity to its other condiment friends, which typically hang out on the fridge door.”
Del Monte: “Ketchup can be stored in the pantry prior to opening,” said Loren Druz, director of consumer products research and development at Del Monte Foods, Inc. “After being opened ketchup must be stored in the refrigerator.”
There you have it, folks! Four out of five major ketchup brands agree that once ketchup has been opened, it’s time to stick it in your fridge. The same rule doesn’t really apply to ketchup in restaurants, as the Today show’s health and nutrition editor Madelyn Fernstrom pointed out, because the turnover is so great.