These culinary quandaries will probably never get put to rest, because they’re mostly matters of opinion. But when, say, Oscar Mayer proclaims that hot dogs are indeed sandwiches, people on that side of the argument tend to feel pretty smug.
For people in the “ketchup should be refrigerated” camp, that kind of vindication recently came in the form of a tweet from Heinz’s UK Twitter account. “FYI: Ketchup. goes. in. the. fridge!!!” the brand tweeted on June 27, 2023. Below it was a poll asking where everyone keeps the condiment; of more than 13,000 respondents, a little over 63 percent chose “fridge” over “cupboard.”
As Simplemost reports, Heinz’s impassioned announcement jibes with what its U.S. branch tweeted back in 2017: “Because of its natural acidity, Heinz® Ketchup is shelf-stable, but refrigerate after opening to maintain product quality.”
In other words, where you store an opened bottle of ketchup is more a question of quality than of food safety. Experts generally agree that keeping it in the pantry won’t put you at any significant risk of getting sick, though it doesn’t hurt to be extra vigilant.
“Condiments like ketchup are formulated with things like acid, salt, and sugar, which all work as preservatives,” Donald W. Schaffner, a food science professor at Rutgers University, told The Guardian. “The reason a lot of food safety experts say to refrigerate ketchup is because they’re erring on the side of caution.”
While it is technically possible for mold to infiltrate the bottle after it’s been opened, Schaffner “would bet that you wouldn’t get food poisoning from room-temperature ketchup unless you really tried to. Maybe if you brought out a hamburger and drained the hamburger juice into the ketchup, that could get you sick.”
If a refrigerator maintains ketchup’s flavor and freshness far longer than a pantry can—and also mitigates even the tiny chance of anything funky ending up in the bottle—why, then, would anyone choose the pantry? Some people balk at the idea of slathering a chilled sauce all over a hot food. To each their own.