According to the latest research about food waste, over 40% of the U.S food supply is never consumed.
The most common reasons for this food waste is that restaurants are not sure how to store food, what food can be refrigerated, and the best use of their food.
Proper food storage involves having procedures to ensure that all of the food gets used up before it expires as well as storing it at the right temperature and location. Knowledge of proper food storage is not only important for restaurants to ensure the health of diners, but it’s also critical for food handler certification and employment.
Below are a few tips for every food handler or restaurant manager should know when it comes to food storage and safety.
1. Follow Stock Rotation Rules
Let’s talk about stock rotation. Stock rotation is the practice of moving products with earlier expiration dates forward to prevent food spoilage. Following stock rotation rules ensures that food doesn’t have to be thrown out because it wasn’t used before it expired. When following stock rotation rules, remember the acronym FIFO—first-in, first-out!
Use the shortest shelf life items first.
When using food that you have in stock for cooking or meal preparation, it’s important to use those items with the shortest shelf life first. That way, older ingredients won’t expire and go to waste.
Place items with the shortest shelf lives up front
When storing or displaying food, always put the stock with the shortest shelf life at the front. You will be able to see it more easily, and it will be cooked with first.
2. Use Recommended Refrigeration Temperatures
Keeping your refrigerator at the recommended temperature is crucial in preserving food and preventing pathogenic bacteria from multiplying. Here are some helpful safety tips to keep in mind when refrigerating food.
Take special care of high-risk foods
High risk time and temperature control (TCS) foods, such as milk, eggs, shellfish, fish and meats, must be refrigerated – they are the main priority.
It’s important to understand that keeping raw and TCS foods at 41°F or below will prevent or slow down pathogenic bacterial multiplication. Remember, the trick is to ensure that you keep food out of the Temperature Danger Zone. Anything over 41°F bacteria to multiply at a rapid speed.
Aside from high risk TCS foods, here is a list of perishable items that should be refrigerated at 41°F:
- Cooked meats, such as salami or ham
- Pies and pates
- Coleslaw, cottage cheese, and sandwich fillings
- Vacuum packed raw meat, poultry, and fish
- Anything labeled for refrigeration, such as bottled sauces without preservatives
- Prepared salads
Make sure that these foods are not left out for more than 2 hours. Bacteria could multiply to dangerous levels and cause foodborne illnesses.
Transfer and cover the contents of open cans
The contents of opened cans should be refrigerated once they have been transferred to suitable storage containers. Never put an opened metal tin of food in the cooler. The metal will rust quickly and cause chemical contamination.
Refrigerate vegetables and fruits
Some vegetables and fruits can be refrigerated if desired, but make sure that they are separated from other foods. Mixing produce with other food stock can result in … (contamination?)
3. Store Food in Coolers Correctly
Understanding how to stack food in a cooler correctly can reduce risks of cross contamination, keep food fresher for longer, and ultimately save you time and money as you will be able to get longer use out of your food inventory.
Below are a few best practices for safe food storage in coolers.
Store raw meat and poultry separately
Always store raw meat and poultry on shelves below other food so that blood or juices cannot drip onto other foods and cross-contaminate them.
Allow space for air circulation
Don’t overcrowd your cooler (the same goes for your refrigerator). Allow enough room around the food for air to circulate. This way, the cooler will be able to operate efficiently and maintain its target temperature.
Keep the cooler door shut
Do not leave cooler doors open any longer than necessary. Otherwise, the temperature inside the cooler will rise, putting food at risk for rapid bacteria growth.
Do not put hot food in the cooler
Unless you have a separate cooler, do not put hot food in a cooler as this will raise the temperature inside and may cause condensation, which can cause cross-contamination by dripping moisture onto other food.
4. Label Food Accurately and In Detail
Labelling food items before storing them lets a food handler know when the food needs to be used by. Below is a breakdown of how you should label different types of food:
- Highly perishable packaged food, such as cooked meat, fish and dairy products, should be marked with a Use By date.
- All ready-to-eat food that is prepared in-house must have a label that includes the name of the food and a Use By or expiration date.
- Less perishable items, such as dried fruit, flour, chips, cereals and canned food, should have a Best Before date.
Tips on When to Throw Out Food
Following these food safety procedures will ensure that less food gets thrown out, but some food will inevitably go bad and need to be thrown out. Here are some
- The FDA says that prepared food and leftovers must be thrown out after 7 days maximum.
- If a TCS food is left out of the refrigerator for over 2 hours, you must throw it out.
- If the food is past the use by date, it is time to discard.
To learn more about proper food storage techniques, as well as other food safety tips, enroll in our food handler course.