Proper food storage is crucial in food safety for both business and personal use. Aside from ensuring that you have sufficient supplies, it also helps prevent food poisoning and other food-borne illnesses.
Food poisoning is often caused by bacteria that start growing on products that haven’t been stored, handled, prepared, or cooked properly. Food that has been contaminated with bacteria may sometimes smell, look, and even taste normal. However, the bacteria it contains can multiply to dangerous levels if left unchecked.
Whether you’re a restaurant owner or a homemaker who wishes to stock up on supplies for longer, this article can help you learn the five food storage best practices to keep your food safe.
1. Take Note of Correct Storage Temperatures
Before you buy in bulk from meat suppliers in Dubai, you must first know the ideal temperatures for food storage.
Since freezing and refrigerating are two of the easiest and widely used preservation techniques in food service businesses and homes, you must note the correct temperature ranges to help prevent the growth of bacteria.
Remember that bacteria tend to grow and multiply quickly when in the temperature danger zone of between 5 and 60 degrees Celsius. This means that you must keep high-risk foods out of this temperature range. Otherwise, you must avoid serving or consuming it.
Of course, the ideal temperature may vary, depending on the food products in question. Below are several kinds of food products and their ideal storage temperatures and conditions:
Dry foods are often kept at a storeroom near the receiving area and kitchen of foodservice businesses. However, this area often comes as an afterthought for business owners, which often means it is in an inconvenient location.
Regardless, you must ensure that the area is dry and cool to avoid swelling in canned goods and spoilage for other products. Ideally, the temperature in the storage area must remain between 10 and 15 degrees Celsius (50 to 59 degrees Fahrenheit).
Refrigeration is useful in extending the life of stored foods. However, you must also maintain the temperature at 4 degrees Celsius (about 39 Fahrenheit) or colder to ensure that the product remains safe to eat.
Dairy products like milk and cheese should be refrigerated at 2 to 4 degrees Celsius or about 36 to 39 degrees Fahrenheit. Never store them in a vegetable cooler; a separate fridge would be better.
The majority of fresh produce can be kept longer, as long as it is stored in the fridge at 2 to 4 degrees Celsius or 36 to 39 degrees Fahrenheit. This can prevent rapid deterioration and ensure freshness upon consumption.
But there are a couple of exceptions to this rule, including bananas and potatoes that don’t do well in the cold. You see, unripe fruit can be ripened at storeroom temperature and may ripen slowly when placed in the fridge. However, you must also beware of potential storage problems for specific items.
Bananas, for instance, tend to turn black quickly when kept inside the refrigerator. Bananas need to be stored at a temperature range of 10 to 15 degrees Celsius (50 to 59 degrees Fahrenheit).
Fresh Meat, Seafood, and Poultry
When keeping meat, seafood, and poultry items in storage, remember to keep them at 4 degrees Celsius (39 degrees Fahrenheit) or colder.
All carcass meats must be unwrapped and hung in a walk-in refrigerator at 1 to 3 degrees Celsius (34 to 37 degrees Fahrenheit) to let air circulate around them more freely. Meanwhile, individually cut meats like chops, steaks, ground meat, and stewing meat must be kept in stainless-steel trays or covered in plastic.
Fresh catch of seafood and poultry must be packed in ice and kept in the fridge at −1 to 2 degrees Celsius (30 to 34 degrees Fahrenheit). Remember to cook and consume these items as soon as possible.
Foods Preserved by Freezing
Frozen foods must be kept in that state in storing temperatures no higher than -18 degrees Celsius (0 degrees Fahrenheit). Otherwise, these food products would lose their vitamin content.
2. Follow the Recommended Fridge Arrangements
Whether you have a standard upright fridge or one you can walk into, you must follow the correct food arrangement, from top to bottom:
- Ready to eat foods – Dairy products (e.g., yogurt and cream), butter, cream cakes, cooked meat, packaged food, and leftovers from cooked food
- Raw poultry, meat, and fish – Covered and kept in sealed containers
- Fruits, vegetables, and salads – Kept in sealed bags or containers and washed before use
Also, rotating stock is extremely vital in food storage, especially frozen foods. This can be difficult for chest freezers as it often means removing the old stock first before putting the new ones in. Still, you must make sure to practice F-I-F-O or first-in, first-out, i.e. using products bought first.
3. Pack Food for Storage Properly
Packing for storage is important to avoid the contamination and hastened deterioration of food due to light, moisture, and air exposure.
Besides using the correct sizes, you should also look for clear or see-through containers to make inventory easier.
Labeling is also important for ease of access to information like its contents, “packed by” date, and “best before” date.
If you’re refrigerating cooked food, ensure that the containers are clean and only used for storing food. They must have tight-fitting lids or supported with food-grade plastic or foil to avoid contamination.
4. Don’t Refreeze Thawed Out Food
Refreezing thawed out food is not recommended in food storage, as thawing exposes food to the temperature danger zone mentioned above.
Instead, keep defrosted food in the fridge until it is ready to be cooked to prevent the growth of bacteria that causes food poisoning. If you use a microwave oven to thaw food, ensure that it is cooked immediately after defrosting.
Although this may vary depending on the type of food and the conditions the food undergoes between thawing and refreezing, the general rule is to not refreeze.
5. When in Doubt, Throw it Out
When you’re not sure whether the food has been in the temperature danger zone for more than four hours, it would be best to throw it out. Also, remember to discard food as soon as it passes the use-by dates on the label.
Thoughtful Food Storage
Food storage has come a long way since ancient times. Today, freezers and refrigerators are here to help you keep more food for future use.
Of course, you must still practice thoughtful food storage to avoid food poisoning and other potentially life-threatening illnesses.
Whether you’re running a fine dining restaurant, or simply want to keep more food supplies to lessen the need to go out, follow these storage best practices to ensure the safety of your food.
Jad Asaad is the Marketing Manager at Bidfood UAE with more than eight years of experience in digital, online and offline marketing. He started his career in Beirut working in a creative agency and then moved to Dubai to further expand his career. He created and implemented award-winning high-impact digital and offline marketing campaigns that consistently generated revenue streams and improved performance in targeted segments.