Fostering curiosity in kids (and their parents) since 2011

“Do we really have to refrigerate ketchup?” 

Over dinner one Sunday night, the subject of ketchup came up. Specifically, the various ways of storing it. Mommyo had always refrigerated ketchup bottles after opening them, so The Nine-Year-Old was somewhat shocked to learn that once upon a time (and even now in certain households) ketchup was not refrigerated.

The Nine-Year-Old, aghast, “Not even after you open it?”

Uncle Phil, Ketchup Expert, “Not even then.”

What does the ketchup bottle say?

Obviously such an earth-shattering claim required immediate investigation. Sure enough, our bottle of Heinz’ finest states in very small print on the back “For best results, refrigerate after opening.”

Image of a ketchup bottle on a table.

The note on the bottle, which is too small to read, says: “For best results, refrigerate after opening.” (Photo: Shala Howell)

Perhaps not the stern wording Mommy had led The Nine-Year-Old to expect. “For best results” merely seems to imply a mild disappointment in texture or flavor of unrefrigerated ketchup on the part of the consumer, not the outbreak of botulism Mommyo had led The Nine-Year-Old to believe would be the inevitable consequence of failure to refrigerate.

Well, this is quite a familial pickle.

What will The Nine-Year-Old do?

On the one hand, The Nine-Year-Old was confronted with Mommyo, who was firmly in the refrigeration camp, and yet, it must be said, has been known to be incorrect a time or two before.

And on the other, there was Uncle Phil, an established non-refrigerator of ketchup, who has not suffered any ill effects from a lifetime of keeping his ketchup on the pantry shelf.

How would the The Nine-Year-Old handle this perplexing situation?

The Nine-Year-Old, diplomatically: “Daddyo, do we really have to refrigerate ketchup?”

Daddyo, unwilling to venture into this minefield without reinforcements, summoned the Heinz website to his iPhone. There he found the following advice:

Screenshot of Heinz Ketchup FAQ. (Text of it in the caption)

The official position of the Heinz Company on whether or not you need to refrigerate their ketchup after opening.  (Source:

In case you can’t read the text – that print is really small – it says:

“Q: Do I need to refrigerate Ketchup?

A: 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, like any processed food, be refrigerated after opening. Refrigeration will maintain the best product quality after opening.”

There’s something in that answer for everyone. Uncle Phil, who runs through ketchup at an alarming rate, felt validated continuing to store his bottles in the pantry. Mommyo, who tries very hard to keep her ketchup bottles around for more than a month, felt justified in continuing to store hers in the fridge.

Strong work, Heinz.

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