Storing foods in a fridge or in a dry store forms part of the food safety pillars. Meaning it is a fundamental area in the kitchen that can help prevent contamination from happening. The fourth pillar (Food Storage) can be categorised into two areas:
Perishable foods (Cold storage)
How do we store foods safely?
Foods must be separated in a manner that prevents contamination from three sources:
Biological (eg. Bacteria)
Chemical (eg. Concentrated chemicals)
Physical (eg. Wood splinters)
These are the three main sources of contamination and all aspects of food storage will relate back to these main factors for both cold and dry storage. You will see from the below sections that storage principles are in many ways the same.
Cold Food Storage
The first requirement regarding the storage of food in fridges and freezers is that all raw foods should be separated from ready-to-eat-foods (RTE).
This means raw foods below and RTE above.
How should foods be stored in a fridge?
In all cases, it is most ideal to have separate storage units for the various food groups. However, in most kitchens it is impossible to do so.
In such cases we advocate the following:
Any food that has been cut or prepared and will not undergo any cooking, as some items used to make salads should be stored in the upper most shelves.
Fruits & vegetables that have not been cut or prepared (we expect raw vegetables to contain bacteria from the soil) can be stored below RTE-foods.
Following theses, raw meats and fish should be stored below the above items, as these have the highest amount of bacteria present and are therefore most likely to cause harm should cross-contamination take place. It is also recommended that shell fish be stored separately from all else, due to the severity of allergic reactions
All foods should also be covered, date coded and labeled, in order to ensure that a good stock rotation system is in place.
Using the first in first out (FIFO) rule should always apply.
What is FIFO?
First In First Out is the basic rule of stock rotation and simply means any delivered/purchased foods that are the first to enter the fridge or dry store (usually also meaning having been opened) must be stored in the front most part of the shelf and used before any other items. Thus, you rotate your stock so that no foods end up expired, which adds unnecessarily to your food costs.
FIFO also assumes that first purchased products have an earlier expiry date than products that are purchased later.
Colour-coded containers make the process a lot easier to quickly identify where foods should be stored.
Ultimately, best practice recommendations should be designed to streamline compliance to Food Safety, and the above example is a perfect illustration of how to keep good practice that will work when busy or during quiet kitchen conditions.
Dry Food Storage
Much like the principles used for cold storage, all dry goods should have a date code or expiry date in order to ensure a First In First Out policy. Dry storage areas are more likely to encounter chances of chemical and physical contamination than cold storage, yet still have the possibility of biological contamination.
The dry store is often overlooked in terms of food safety, because of the long shelf-life of the products. Yet for example a weevil infestation could contaminate all your dry stock in a matter of days. Therefore, all goods should be covered, in order to ensure quality is maintained, and to prevent harbourage of insects and pests. Foods should be stored separately from equipment and chemicals. Reseal opened containers or transfer to resealable containers. All decanted items should be given a date code and include the expire date.
What items are needed to ensure foods are stored safely?
Plastic sealable containers of various sizes
Labels / marker pen
All foods should also be covered, date coded and labeled, to ensure that a good stock rotation system is in place.
It is also important to note that the use of cardboard boxes should also be eliminated once the process of delivery has occurred.
This will assist in the food safety by:
Limiting exposure of foods to the open environment
Prevent pest harbourage
Prevent bacteria from surviving in dampened cardboard