Tag Archives: storage

Megan Nichols

Important Restaurant Food Storage Safety Tips You Need to Know

By Megan Ray Nichols
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Megan Nichols

Safety is a priority when handling food. Don’t think of it as a chore to appease the health inspector. Food storage and safe handling can prevent your customers from getting sick. Whether you’re a veteran of the industry or just starting out, reviewing these tips can improve your restaurant’s operations and keep your guests safe.

Remember FIFO

FIFO, first in first out, should become your mantra when using stock. This rule governs stock rotation and use. When you receive a delivery, place the new stock behind the existing stock. Doing so reduces waste as you won’t have goods stored past their expiration dates. Use the stock at the front to always make use of the oldest products first.

Wood pallets, food storage
When receiving a new delivery, remember: FIFO. Image courtesy of Pixabay

Train your employees to track the expiration dates on all the goods in storage. A sheet listing the expiration of new and existing products easily shows this information. Stress the importance of using goods before their best by date for optimal safety and quality.

Keep Storage Dry and Dark

Dark, dry storage areas maximize the storage time of foods. Whether it’s dry goods in pantry storage or cold products in a refrigerator or freezer, the ideal conditions are out of direct sunlight. This helps control the temperature and prevent the food from degrading. Products with vitamins A, D, K and E, which are fat-soluble, can also break down in sunlight.
The humidity levels should stay lower than 15% to help preserve product quality. Moisture-proof packaging and air conditioning can maintain the appropriate levels. Keep a hygrometer in your storage areas to verify the humidity levels remain consistent. To protect food from contaminants and vermin, place shelves so food is at least six inches from the floor and walls, and one foot from the ceiling.

Storage Temperatures Are Key

Depending on what you store, temperatures may range from freezing to 140° F. Maintain dry storage temperatures between 50° and 70° F. Freezers must keep food frozen solid with an internal temperature of 0° F at most. Keep temperatures between 32° and 40° F in refrigeration units to prevent bacterial growth. Hot storage must keep food at a minimum of 140° F.

Temperature
Holding to temperature ranges are critical to prevent food poisoning. Photo courtesy Pixnio

These temperature ranges are critical to prevent food poisoning. Track temperatures and discard any food stored at the wrong temperature. Consider installing alarms tied to the thermometers in your storage units to alert your employees of critical temperature changes that could affect food safety and quality.

Store Based on Cooking Temperature

Did you know the temperature you must cook foods will determine which shelf you store them on in the refrigerator? The lower the finished temperature of cooked food, the higher a shelf you store it on. Ready-to-eat and cooked foods need to stay on the top shelf, wrapped tightly to prevent cross-contamination. Any ready-to-eat meats and cheeses go on the shelf below. Again, keep them tightly covered or wrapped.

Raw foods go on the bottom three shelves. The third shelf from the top should hold foods cooked to 145° F. including raw fish and shellfish. Below that shelf, keep raw pork, beef and veal. These include cuts and steaks but not ground meat. These have a cooked temperature of 155° F. The bottom shelf holds ground meat and whole eggs. These must cook to an internal temperature of 165° F.

Foods that need cooking thoroughly must stay in enclosed pans or on non-absorbent shelving. Use airtight containers where possible to store food. This protects the food from drying out, preserving its quality. Additionally, the food will stay free of contamination from other foods in the storage unit. This is especially important for refrigerated foods, which may still harbor liquids that can get onto other foods.

Label and Check Foods in Storage

While you should label unopened foods, it’s even more important to label opened foods. Use all foods before the type expires. For instance, summer sausage stays fresh for only three weeks after opening in the refrigerator, but it stays good up to three months unopened. If in doubt, throw the food out. It’s better to stay safe than sorry.

Prevent Cross Contamination During Cooking

During cooking, you can prevent contamination of fresh foods by raw foods through regular hygiene practices. All employees should thoroughly wash their hands with 110°-F water and soap. Despite hand washing, gloves must be worn at all times to protect consumers further.

Cutting boards
Never use the same cutting boards for raw meats and ready-to-eat foods. Photo courtesy PicJumbo.

When cooking, never use the same cutting boards for raw meats and ready-to-eat foods. Juice from undercooked meat could contaminate salad ingredients, sickening those who eat the salad. Also, use a cooking thermometer and always cook foods to the appropriate internal temperature based on the type of food. Reheat previously cooked dishes to an internal temperature of 165° F to stop bacteria growth.

When storing foods, place them in airtight containers that you can easily identify. This prevents things such as milk and cream from accidentally getting replaced with each other. It also ensures every item gets stored correctly. Correct labels on containers also help with preventing mix-ups.

Food Safety Starts With You

Food safety is critical to your restaurant’s operations. Improper storage can shut down your business from a food poisoning outbreak or a bad inspection from the local health inspector. Don’t let these happen to you. Follow these guidelines to ensure the food you store and serve remains safe and high-quality.

Megan Nichols
FST Soapbox

Quick Guide to Keeping Your Food Processing Facility Clean

By Megan Ray Nichols
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Megan Nichols

Keeping your food processing facility clean is actually even more important than the food itself. What steps can you take to help keep your food processing facility clean?

1. Cultivate a Clean Culture

Keeping your facility clean is more than just your job. It’s the job of everyone who walks through your doors, whether they work on the factory floor or in the offices. Your first step should be to cultivate a clean culture. Get everyone involved, from the newest hire all the way up to the CEO. Everyone should have their assigned job, but they should also feel comfortable speaking to their supervisors or upper management to report spills, possible contamination and other cleanliness problems.

It’s not just better for your overall workplace cleanliness—keeping a clean workspace helps to improve employee safety, productivity and morale as well.

2. Reinforce the Necessity for Personal Hygiene

When you have human employees involved in the production process, there is always a chance the product can become contaminated. Personal hygiene can help to reduce the chances of contamination by keeping your employees clean and safe as well.

Hand washing, for example, is a step that is often neglected but can mean the difference between a clean batch of food and a contaminated one. Good hand washing procedures can also help reduce the spread of cold and flu germs inside the workplace.
Personal protective equipment also falls into this category—gloves, hair and beard nets, shoe booties and other coverings should all be worn to lessen the possibility of contamination.

3. Keep Up With Your Equipment

The exact equipment you need to complete your work will vary depending on the type of food you’re processing, but for most foods that start with raw ingredients, you will need some sort of sifting equipment. These are designed to remove under- and oddly-sized food items or to remove dirt, leaves or other debris that might have come in contact with the food from the field where it was harvested.

Most sifting equipment relies on vibrating or moving sifters that can throw small particles into the air. While necessary, this also creates a new potential source of contamination for your food items. Investing in sifting equipment with a dust hood can help solve this problem. Not only do dust hoods keep your product and facility cleaner, machines with dust hoods reduce air pollution too.

4. Food Storage and Temperature

Food production facilities are at the mercy of temperature. Food that is allowed to get too warm can grow bacteria, making it dangerous to consume. Food that is left for extended periods of time at temperatures between 41 and 135 degrees Fahrenheit are also at risk for bacterial and microorganism growth.

Be vigilant about the temperature at which your food is stored. Food that needs to stay hot is required to be kept at 140 degrees or above, and cold food needs to be kept below 41 degrees.

5. Clean, Clean and Clean Again

Keeping all of your equipment clean and sanitized is an essential step in the maintenance of your food processing facility, but many pieces of equipment are not designed to be disassembled and sanitized separately. This may be tricky when there are cracks and crevices where food particles can get stuck, encouraging bacteria growth. You have two options for cleaning your equipment—clean in place and clean out of place.

Cleaning in place, as its name suggests, involves cleaning your equipment without taking it apart. This includes running sanitizing chemicals through the equipment and cleaning all accessible surfaces.

Cleaning out of place requires shutting down the equipment and disassembling it, allowing you to clean and sanitize all of those hard-to-reach corners. Depending on the piece of equipment, this may require shutting down your entire production line, so be sure that cleaning out of place won’t impact your production deadlines.

6. Cut the Clutter

Clutter in a workspace, even if it’s just boxes of product waiting to be palletized, can contribute to an unclean and unsafe work environment. Clutter allows the collection of dust, which can make its way into both food and equipment.

Take the time to dedicate specific areas to storage, preferably away from the primary production line. Keep your main traffic routes clear to prevent on-the-job accidents and ensure that anything kept in overhead storage is stable with no risk of falling.

7. Keep Covers and Guardrails In Place and Maintained

Open tanks or containers that process food are prone to contamination and are difficult to keep clean. Any tanks or containers that have covers on them should be covered at all times to ensure the product is kept clean.

For places where guardrails are necessary, such as above production lines or other elevated walkways, confirm that the rails provide coverage on all exposed sides. Make sure that there is also no risk of any dirt or other contaminants from shoes or the walkways falling into food or onto the production line.

A dirty production line can cost you thousands of dollars to correct, costing even more if the contaminated product has to be discarded. Take the time to maintain your cleanliness and keep your facility running smoothly.

FST Soapbox

Risk in Our Supply Chain: Where Do We Start?

By Traci Slowinski
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FSMA has arrived with the launch of the first two preventive control rules – Current Good Manufacturing Practice and Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Human and Animal Food (or cGMP and HARPC, for short). With these new FSMA rules, the food and beverage industry will now be held accountable for being more proactive versus reactive, and will be responsible for identifying and managing risk throughout their supply chain. Of course, this emphasis on risk can also be seen in other sectors of the industry (i.e., GFSI and ISO), and risk has become the focal point for a number of compliance initiatives.

Supply chain challenges in food safety
Supply chain challenges in food safety (Click to enlarge)

These days a number of supply chain challenges are driving risk. Continued global expansion of the industry is resulting in more import and export activities. We are seeing consumer food trends shift toward riskier food/preparation options. Regulatory agencies continue to work on improving their food safety requirements. And the growing population is putting more demands on our current resources. All of these factors equates to great risk within all stages of the supply chain.

Therefore, it will be important that you understand what risk management entails and have the right tools to identify, assess and control the risks that you find throughout your supply chain.

So where do we start looking for risk? Here are a few examples of where your risk assessments should be performed:

External Partners. You need to build strategic relationships with your external partners (suppliers, contract manufacturers/co-packers, service providers, carriers, etc.) across the supply chain. Building trust through good communication and collaboration is essential to ensure that you can rely on your partners to do the right thing for both parties.

RiskAssessmentSupplyChainRaw Materials. Many hazards can be introduced into a facility through raw materials—whether we are talking about raw ingredients, packaging materials, chemicals, or other components used to produce your product. Some hazards to assess include pathogens, allergens, chemical residues, pests and foreign material.

Storage and Handling. When looking at risk during storage and handling, it is important to address several hazards including allergen control, temperature control, foreign material control, proper segregation and product flow.

Processing. A number of areas in processing can introduce hazards and therefore should be included in your risk assessment. These include improper sanitation, cross contamination/contact potential, foreign material contamination, critical control point deviations, pre-requisite program failures and mislabeling.

Shipping and Transport. Lastly, you must safeguard your shipping and transportation procedures in order to account for any potential risk once the product has left your facility. Areas to consider during your risk assessment include temperature control, condition and sanitation of truck and storage units, loading/unloading practices, security/tampering potential, accident/emergency recovery, and traceability.

For more information on risk management within the food and beverage supply chain, register to attend the free webinar “Supply Chain Management: Does What I Eat Put Me at Risk” on October 28, 2015. Speakers will discuss risk throughout the supply chain, focusing on supplier management and some of the new FSMA requirements. They will provide an overview of risk management and some of the tools that can be used to identify and assess risk. In addition, they will discuss how technology can help companies meet FSMA requirements.