Precautions for food storage

One critical aspect of food protection is appropriate food storage. Food storage areas should be well ventilated and illuminated, and protected from overhead drips. Floors, wall surfaces and tables should be easy to clean, and the floors should be well drained. The storage area should be kept free from insects and vermin, by screening if possible.

Food should be obtained from approved sources and should come in its original container. It should be kept free from contamination once it has been received from the supplier. Processed foods are often safer than unprocessed foods, for example, pasteurised milk is safer than raw, untreated milk.

Whether in the home or in commercial premises, once in the food preparation area, food should be kept on shelves or clean racks. These should be sufficiently high off the floor, at least 50 cm, and be spacious enough to prevent contact spoilage or contamination. This is especially important for storing raw and cooked foods, which must never touch each other, because raw food can contaminate cooked food.

Why is it important to store foods on a shelf above the floor?

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Food stored at floor level is more vulnerable to damage and contamination. For example, rats and mice are more likely to find it, and it may be accidentally knocked or kicked if people pass by.

Perishable and potentially hazardous foods that can be easily contaminated, such as milk and raw meat, should be stored at low temperature, preferably in a refrigerator at below 10ºC. Frozen foods should be stored in a freezer below -18ºC.

The general rule for food storage is to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Cooked foods should be eaten immediately, but if there is a delay the foods should be kept at a temperature higher than 60ºC. Allowing cooked food to cool to room temperature allows microorganisms to start to grow and multiply; therefore, cooked food must be stored very carefully. If it cannot be eaten straight away, it should be kept as cold as possible, ideally in a refrigerator, to avoid growth of microorganisms.

If any food has to be reheated, this must be done thoroughly. If food is only warmed and not reheated properly, microorganisms will multiply in it, so you need to heat it enough to destroy them. Infant foods should not be stored at all, but must be used immediately.

Last modified: Thursday, 26 June 2014, 9:05 AM