The fight to keep foods safe begins at the receiving dock or area of the kitchen. As soon as an operation receives and checks food, it should be immediately placed in refrigerated storage, freezer storage, or dry storage. It isn’t just stored, but stored properly, and the cardinal rule in proper storage is FIFO (First In-First Out). You see this in practice at the grocery stores when the recently delivered milk cartons are stored behind those cartons that arrived previously. Older products are placed so that they get used before newly arrived products.
Rules for Proper Storage of Food:
The two biggest culprits in food contamination are time and temperature. Most pathogens cannot survive above 140°F (60°C) and many cannot survive at temperatures below 40°F (4.45°C). All pathogens thrive in the 40 to 140°F (4.45 to 60°C) range, which explains why that particular temperature range is called the danger zone. Foodservice professionals work hard to keep foods out of that temperature range.
To get cooked foods through the danger zone safely, the cooling process must be performed quickly and correctly. Improper cooling is one of the leading causes of foodborne illnesses. Remember that the food must be brought to less than 40°F (4.45°C) as quickly as possible.
Place items in shallow containers. Store containers in single layers in the refrigerator.
Another favorite area for illness-causing pathogens to grow is improperly reheated foods. To properly reheat items, the temperature of the foods must be brought up to 165°F (73.89°C) for at least 15 seconds. The biggest error made in the professional kitchen is when a steam table is used to reheat food. A steam table cannot get the foods up to the proper temperature.
Frozen items that are well-wrapped can be safely thawed in two ways—by allowing the item to thaw in the refrigerator, or by placing the item under running water at a temperature of 70°F (21.12°F) or below. Since the refrigerator method takes much more time, the running-water technique is most often used in the professional kitchen.
Cutting boards should always be washed and sanitized between use. In some operations, cutting boards are color-coded so that certain products are restricted to certain color boards.
Another way to avoid cross-contamination is for foodservice professionals to wash their hands frequently with soap and hot water. Most professional kitchens have separate sinks for hand washing.
Downloadable Handout: Basics of Food Safety
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