Safer Stock Handling Practices:
The World Health Organisation states the five core principles of food safety are:
1. Keep clean
2. Separate raw and cooked
3. Cook thoroughly
4. Keep food at safe temperatures
5. Use safe water and raw materials
So we can see that how we handle and store our foodstuffs, from deliveries and raw ingredients to the cooked product, is vital for maintaining good food health and therefore good business.
We covered in great detail about keeping ourselves and our work area clean in previous lessons, so this lesson will focus more on handling and controlling stock from delivery to storage, prior to preparation.
Every food outlet needs stock, so at some point most of us who work in the industry will end up handling an incoming delivery. It is vital we ensure stock is separated into its correct storage category and adequately stored as soon as possible, but in the case of frozen or chilled food a temperature check should also be carried out, ideally before unloading the delivery. It is a legal requirement upon the company delivering your stock that it is kept at an appropriate temperature, and you should always record the temperatures of incoming deliveries. Legally, this can be done by checking the delivery vehicles temperatures but best practice (or if the delivery vehicle has no temperature display) dictates this should be done by a thermometer or probe where possible,
without damaging the stock (IE; placing the probe between two packs of products rather than piercing a pack).
Once you are satisfied that your stock has arrived within any temperature range needed, it should be unloaded and stored, again in an area with an adequate temperature range, as soon as possible. Remember to keep an eye out for signs of infestation, contamination or damage when unloading the order.
Raw foodstuffs should always be stored separately from cooked/ready to eat foods and meats separate to fish, fruit or vegetables.
Where this is not possible, for example a small sandwich shop with limited refrigeration space, uncooked meats should be stored at the bottom of the fridge, with cooked meats above them and fruit and veg and other sundries above them. Different food stuffs, for example raw chicken and raw beef, should be stored in their own, individually marked, containers.
Temperature Control and Stock Rotation
Once you accept the delivery, it becomes your company’s responsibility to make sure that the food is adequately stored. As touched on above, this will usually involve considering whether goods are dry, fresh, chilled, or frozen.
Dry and Fresh Goods.
Dry or fresh goods can be categorised as those not needing temperature controlled storage – they don’t need to be in a fridge (though in some cases storing them in a fridge will increase their lifespan – IE cucumbers and tomatoes).
These products should be stored off of the floor, ideally in their own original packaging with any use by date visible whilst they are stored. This enables easier stock rotation; in most cases where dry or fresh goods have a use by date, later deliveries will have longer dates and so should be placed behind existing stock though this is not always the case, hence it helps to have the dates clearly visible on all stock. This is true for all stock, not just dry or fresh foods.
Upon receipt of delivery, any goods marked to be kept refrigerated should be immediately placed in the fridge. Whilst you can display chilled goods at room temperature for up to four hours, this is ill-advised with new stock as you don’t always know how it has been kept prior to delivery and prolonged periods at room temperature will sour food faster.
By law in the UK, refrigerated goods should be kept at a maximum of 8 degrees celsius, however it is best practice to ensure that fridges run at a maximum of 5 degrees celsius, in
order to ensure that the temperature stays below 8 when in frequent use.
Remember, once the delivery is signed for, that becomes your responsibility…
In addition, it’s worth remembering to rotate stock. Chilled goods will always have a use by date on them – placing newer stock behind older will ensure you use the shortest dated stock first.
As with chilled goods, once they are signed for and accepted, the maintenance of temperature of frozen foodstuffs becomes your responsibility. A freezer should run at a maximum of -18 degrees C, but as with a fridge, a freezer in constant use should be set
colder in order to maintain food at -18.
Even though freezers can store foods for much, much longer than fridges, most frozen foods come with a use by date too, making stock rotation important if not as essential as it is in the fridge – it’s easy to forget about that old box of burgers or loaf of frozen bread, and before you know it you’re throwing it out.
In addition, with foods you’re freezing to enhance their storage date (some fresh foods can be frozen in order to extend their lifespans) it’s worth paying additional attention to the storage instructions and modifying the storage date BEFORE you transfer the product to the freezer and crossing out the original date and replacing it with the new one. Always freeze foods on or before the original use by date if they are generally stored fresh/chilled
to prevent contamination.
Why is it so Important?
Bacterial growth is stunted at temperatures below 5 degrees celsius, preventing food from “going off” or contamination from spreading. At lower temperatures growth stops completely but the cold does not kill bacteria, instead “freezing” it. That’s why when food is cooked we must make sure it’s cooked thoroughly; in words this means little, but in practice it means your cooked food must be heated all the way through to approximately 75 degrees C to kill all bacteria. Most bacteria are killed at around 63
There’s also an additional law in Scotland whereby if you are reheating pre-cooked food for sale it must reach 82 degrees C throughout.