Food Storage Basics
Attention to detail is often found lacking in the dry good storage area in kitchens. It has often been thought that as long as the foods are properly labelled, protected from overhead leakages and the area is kept in a “broom clean” condition, that it met with regulations.
However, there are a few simple rules that can keep dry goods safe, wholesome and nutritious for as long as possible.
- Food Rotation
All food item should be date coded, and the practise of “First-In; First-Out” should always be
implemented. It is always good to keep a readily accessible record of the “use by” and “sell by
dates” of received foods and a general chart of the shelf life of various items.
- Keep it Covered
Store open products in clean, uncontaminated, sealable containers. All opened products must
be sealed to prevent pest entry and other forms of contamination.
Bulk products such as sugar and flour, can be emptied into tightly covered, properly labelled
approved containers to prevent outside contamination.
If a container is found to be damaged, the items should be decanted into a sealable container. It
is also good to note what foods require refrigeration once opened. We have often found that
facilities do not place syrups and sauces that clearly state “refrigerate once opened” in a
refrigeration unit following opening.
- Temperature and Ventilation
Storerooms should be kept cool, dry and well ventilated. The storage life of most foods are cut in
half by every increase of 10°C, so it is best to keep the temperature of the store room between
10°C and 22°C. In addition, the store room should be free from un-insulated steam and water
pipes, transformers, refrigerator condensing units and other heat producing equipment.
Avoid storing foods in direct sunlight. Sunlight promotes oxidation and therefore causes the loss
of nutritional value and quality.
- Date coding
All dry good items must have some form of date coding. This is especially important when goods
are decanted into re-usable containers.These containers should include the expiry date as well as the date on which the product was decanted into the container.
Canning is an important and safe method of preserving food, if practiced correctly. The canning
process involves placing foods in jars or cans and heating them to a temperature that destroys microorganisms
that could be a health hazard or cause the food to spoil. Air is driven from the jar or can
during heating, and as it cools, a vacuum seal is formed. This vacuum seal prevents air from getting
back into the product bringing with it microorganisms to contaminate the food. As food items are
processed and sealed in airtight containers, it enables a shelf life of one to five years and perhaps
longer. However, there are limits to how long food quality can be preserved.
Several factors limit the shelf-life of canned foods.
- Rust: Cans or metal lids on glass jars can rust. When rust is deep enough, holes may appear letting spoilage agents in. Dents can cause the same concerns.
- Corrosion: Food can react chemically with the metal container (for example: high-acid food like canned tomatoes and fruit juices). Over several years, this causes taste and texture changes and lowers the nutritional value of the food.
- Temperature: Temperatures over 37°C are harmful to canned foods. The risk of spoilage rises sharply as storage temperatures increase.
- Fridge storage: An opened can should never be placed into a fridge. Rather decant into a glass or plastic container to preserve optimum quality and flavour.
In order to keep the quality of your canned food items, correct storage practices should be
- Store in a cool, clean, dry place where temperatures are below 25°C but not freezing
- First in, first out. Make sure the oldest is used first. Try not to keep canned foods more than
- Use canned meats and seafood within 12 months.
- Use low-acid canned foods within 8-12 months.
- Use high-acid foods within 12 to 18 months. Foods stored longer will be safe to eat if the cans
show no signs of spoilage or damage but may deteriorate in colour, flavour and nutritive value.
- Canned fruit juices can be stored up to 3 years.
For additional tips on water saving, check out our article on saving water without compromising food safety
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