Proper Food Safety Storage in Restaurants
Unsafe food causes more than 200 different illnesses and diseases, ranging from diarrhea to cancer. As a chef, the taste and quality of the food you prepare and serve is high on the agenda, but of course the safety of the food is also important. Correctly storing your food is essential and involves all kitchen staff. They should be thoroughly trained on proper food safety storage and understand that expectations have to be met or there will be ramifications.
The FIFO Rule
Anyone involved in the storage of food in a restaurant needs to be aware of the FIFO rule, which is First In, First Out. Correct stock rotation is the best way to do this, so when you get a delivery new food goes behind older food to ensure it gets used first. All food should also have a “use by” date on it which is stuck to. According to Statista, 54% of people believe that food prepared in restaurants is more likely to cause food poisoning compared to food prepared at home, meaning it’s important to have high food safety standards to gain the trust of your customers.
Get the Most From Your Refrigerator
Your fridge and freezer will work more efficiently if you don’t overload them with too much food. Cool air won’t be able to circulate as well as it needs to and the temperature could increase and enter the danger zone. One of the worse possible results of this is the potential of one of your guests getting food poisoning, which is more common than you may realize. One in six Americans experience food poisoning, leading to 128,000 needing to be hospitalized. Purchasing a larger fridge/freezer for home cooks or additional fridge/freezer storage for professional kitchens can mean that you have better storage space to avoid overfilling fridges and freezers. Alternatively, professional kitchens can order food more frequently so that less storage space is required, resulting in less chance of food spoilage. If you can get fresh product delivered 6 days a week then ordering smaller amounts more frequently is a great way to improve your food safety program. This also guarantees a fresher product for customers.
Where to Place Things In The Fridge
The placement of different foods in the fridge is very important as it can prevent cross contamination, reduce the chance of food poisoning and food spoilage. Raw meats should be stored at the bottom of the fridge in the following order working from the bottom shelf up:
- whole and ground poultry (bottom shelf)
- ground meats
- whole cuts of beef and pork
- raw fish/shellfish
- fruits & vegetables
- prepared foods (top shelf)
This is the best way prevent liquid from dripping onto other food. Prepared foods, fruits and vegetables should be stored on the top shelves in the fridge where there’s little risk of cross contamination for them. Where possible you should store meat and fish in a separate fridge than prepared food and fresh produce to further reduce the risk of contamination. It’s a good idea to store all food in clear, sealed containers as this keeps freshness in and keeps air out, which increases the shelf life of food. Containers should be labelled to show its contents, a use by date and the date it’s prepared.
External Factors Effect On Food Safety Storage
It’s important to remember that various external factors also play a part in correct food storage. If you have a power outage your fridge can quickly warm up. You should check food once the power is back on and discard it if required, depending on how long the power was out for and if the food in the fridge’s reached the danger zone, which is 40-140 degrees F. The temperature outside can also affect the temperature of your fridge. Place a thermometer in the fridge, check it regularly, and be prepared to discard food if your fridge is not able to maintain a safe temperature.
Put A Contingency Plan Into Place
You should have a contingency plan in place if there is a power outage, such as a generator that is prioritized for fridges and freezers as this can help to reduce potential food waste. If your restaurant is closed when the power goes out it’s worth considering not opening until the power is back. However, sometimes the power goes out when there’s already customers in the restaurant. Another contingency to put into place is to have a “power outage menu” where the dishes take into consider what cold storage (if any) you have available as well as which pieces of equipment will be working during a power outage (for instance your gas ranges may still work). You should print “power outage menus” ahead of time (while the power is on!) so if a power outage does occur you will already have a workable menu printed and you can continue to safely serve guests.
Proper food safety storage in restaurant fridges ensures less waste, meaning more profit. There’s also less risk of cross contamination and bacteria growth, so the chances of making someone ill reduces too. If you’re ever unsure about the safety of a food at any point in the food handling process a good rule is if you’re in doubt, throw it out. But of course, seek the chef’s council first.