Trading Standards Institute Advice

Storage in your food business

Storage in your food business
This leaflet is for all food businesses, including those involved in food preparation and production, retail premises, restaurants, catering, pubs, cafes and fast-food shops.

What do I need to store?
Most food businesses will need and use a variety of goods. These include:

  • raw materials - food and food products
  • packaging, wrapping and disposable goods such as cutlery, plates, foil containers and so on
  • cleaning materials
  • staff items such as protective clothing
  • equipment and machinery for producing and serving food

Why is storage important?
Many food business premises are limited in size, and often their larger areas may be set aside for customers and service.

This means that food preparation areas are often quite small, and storage areas very limited, so you may need to think carefully about the needs of your business.

What do I need to consider?
Think about the kinds of storage and space you will need.

Storing food
Think about the kinds of food you will be using. These fall into three main groups: frozen, chilled and dry (cupboard) foods.

You must keep frozen food at or below -18°C. It is usual for a freezer to operate between -18°C and -22°C. You must check and record temperatures.

You must wrap food properly to prevent freezer burn (damage to and drying out of the surface of the food caused by exposure to cold) and contamination. It is better to use freezer bags and containers rather than cling film, which loses its 'cling' in the freezer. Freezer burn will not cause illness to your customers but it spoils the food which will not be at its best quality and you may get customer complaints about this.

Whether you have an upright or chest style freezer, you must keep raw and cooked food separate. In an upright freezer, store raw food below cooked food. In a chest freezer, use the baskets to separate these foods.

You must keep chilled food below 8°C by law, but it is better to keep your fridge at a temperature between 1°C and 4°C, which is out of the food temperature danger zone. These temperatures apply to both storage and display units. You must check and record temperatures. The lower the temperature of your fridge, the longer shelf life you will get from your food.

Commercial fridges do not usually have separate sections for salads and vegetables. Follow the rules, and store raw food below cooked food, taking care that raw meats and fish do not drip onto salads and fruits that will be cleaned using only a cold water wash.

You must cover, label and date all food for contamination and stock control purposes.

Any food that does not have to be stored in temperature-controlled conditions is stored in the dry store. This can range from a cupboard in the food preparation area to a large storeroom or even warehouse:

  • however much room you have, the rules are the same
  • dry goods can be stored at normal room temperature - this is usually at or around 20°C, or cooler if possible at temperatures between 10°C and 15°C
  • you must keep storage areas cool and dry to avoid problems with food spoilage such as those caused by mould and mildew, which thrive in warm, humid conditions
  • if you do use a storeroom, you must keep all goods off the floor on shelves or pallets and, wherever possible, clear of walls to allow cleaning
  • you should transfer foods that are in open or soft packaging to pest-proof containers - these containers should be rigid, with lids that fit tightly

Stock rotation
Make sure that you date stock and rotate it. Stock rotation means that you always make sure that you use food in date order. This should make sure that food is always in good condition and, if managed properly, will reduce waste caused by food going off.

Food will be given either a 'use by' or 'best before' date. 'Use by' is the date-labelling system used for high-risk food that could cause food poisoning. You must not use food after the 'use by' date, as it is against the law and the food may not be safe. A 'best before date' is a guide to the quality of the food and shows when the food should be at its best. You can use food past this date as long as it is in good condition. Otherwise you must throw it away.

Storage areas and capacity
You must have enough storage space for the amount of food you use. That 'special offer' from the supplier may be tempting, but pointless if you cannot safely store the goods.

You should regularly check storage areas for signs of any pests.

When food is delivered, make sure you store it immediately in the appropriate area.

Storage for non-food items
Store disposables separately from food whenever possible.

You must keep containers for food use in a clean area, but bear in mind that the outer packaging for these goods may not be clean and could be contaminated.

Cleaning equipment and materials
Never store cleaning equipment and chemicals in food-storage or preparation areas. If you can keep cleaning equipment and chemicals in controlled (possibly locked) storage, this will reduce the risk of unauthorised use of these products and food being contaminated.

There have been instances where cleaning products have been mistaken for and used as food. You must keep cleaning products in their original containers, with the 'instructions for use' labels still on them. Never transfer cleaning chemicals to food containers.

Equipment and other products
There are always other pieces of unused equipment, spare parts for machinery and personal belongings that need to be kept out of food areas.

Use common sense and make sure that you keep these items away from food and food areas. Get rid of any old or outdated equipment, and store any items you do not use regularly in a clean condition away from areas where you prepare food.

Staff changing and storage facilities
Staff should have an area for changing into protective clothing and a locker for their clothes and other belongings.

Do not allow items such as money, keys, jewellery, cigarettes, lighters or matches and mobile phones in food preparation and service areas. These items are unhygienic and may carry dirt and bacteria, and could also fall into the food.

A quick reminder
Take pride in a clean and tidy work area and your team will do the same. Two useful phrases to help you:

  • 'a place for everything and everything in its place'
  • 'clean as you go' (this isn't just about cleaning - it also means keeping a work area tidy and free from clutter that could get into food)

More information
You will find further guidance in our other leaflets on this website. Information can also be found on the Food Standards Agency website.

Alternatively, contact your local environmental health service for advice.

Please note
This leaflet is not an authoritative interpretation of the law and is intended only for guidance.  

© 2018 itsa Ltd.