According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 48 million people are sickened by foodborne illnesses each year. One aspect of owning, operating or working in a restaurant is ensuring your patrons' food is presented beautifully and cooked to perfection. However, this simple goal cannot occur unless the food is stored safely. Here are a few simple tips to help ensure you are storing all the food in your restaurant correctly:
Learn About FIFO
From the dry goods in your pantry to the most expensive items in your freezer, when arranging all the food products in your kitchen, it's vital to remember four letters: FIFO
This acronym stands for "First In, First Out" and using it in combination with keeping a close eye on all the different foods' expiration dates will ensure you don't waste money or serve your guests anything that could potentially make them sick.
The first step in implementing the FIFO strategy begins when you receive your newest shipment of food. Label everything with the date it was delivered before arranging these new items in the back of the shelves. This helps ensure the older items are pushed to the front – and used first.
Not only does FIFO save you money, when implemented correctly, anyone who is grabbing food off the shelf or from the refrigerator won't need to take time to read the expiration date, which also saves you precious time!
Arranging Food In The Refrigerator and Freezer
Another food safety strategy you can implement today involves simply rearranging your refrigerator and freezer. Not only will this reduce clutter and waste, it will also ensure that the food is stored safely to prevent cross-contamination.
As a rule, always store your meats in the bottom shelf of the refrigerator and freezer. This helps ensure any liquid in the container doesn't accidentally drip and contaminate other foods.
Here are a few additional tips to help properly arrange your fridge and freezer:
Store milk, lunch meat and any items that were previously prepared in the coldest part of the fridge or freezer. In a walk-in, this is toward the back. In a traditional refrigerator, this is shelf closest to the freezer.
Never stuff food into the fridge or freezer. This restricts airflow which is not only unsafe for the food, it will also cause the unit to work harder to maintain the temperature.
Never store containers of food on sheet pans or line the shelving with aluminum foil. Both of these practices also restrict airflow.
Finally, to ensure your walk-in units are maintaining a proper temperature, place at least two thermometers in each unit – one near the back and an additional thermometer near the front. Check the temperature of each thermometer several times a day to make sure that all the food is stored at the correct temperature.
The Most Important Numbers You'll Ever Need to Know
Ensuring that your food is stored safely can be as simple as remembering a few important numbers:
Keep your freezer temperature at zero degrees Fahrenheit, or lower. It's important for all foods to maintain a temperature of at least zero degrees Fahrenheit to remain free of foodborne illnesses.
The thermometer in your refrigerator should be set at 41 degrees Fahrenheit – or lower.
Keep the temperature in your pantry at between 50 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
Food Safety Magazine recommends keeping your pantry at a dry 15 percent humidity. A simple tool called a hygrometer can be used to measure the humidity in any environment and can be purchased at a hardware store.
Finally, don't forget that in 2009, the Food and Drug Administration passed a law that requires all food stored in a commercial kitchen – whether in the pantry or a walk-in freezer – must be at least six inches off the floor.
From remembering a simple acronym to keeping a few important numbers in mind, keeping the food in your pantry, fridge and freezer properly stored is very simple. Taking a few minutes to rotate your food and check the thermometers in your fridge and freezer are two additional tools you can utilize to stop the spread of foodborne illness.