Good Refrigerated Food Storage Practice
A range of food storage methods can be used in a kitchen to ensure that food remains safe to eat and does not go off quickly. This article will look at how best to store food in the fridge to avoid cross-contamination and ensure it stays fresh for as long as possible.
General Refrigeration Tips
Before looking at the shelves in a fridge on which certain foods should be kept, let's first look at some general advice for storing food in a refrigerator:
- Adequate cooling: Keep the fridge between 0 and 5 degrees Celsius to reduce the risk of harmful bacteria from spreading and causing foodborne illnesses. Using a thermometer is ideal for ensuring that the fridge's temperature is where it should be.
- Avoid overloading the refrigerator: Doing so can prevent the door from closing fully and obstruct the cooling unit, which will raise the temperature in the fridge and cause food to become unsafe to eat.
- Frozen food: It seems obvious, but chilled foods must be stored in the refrigerator, and frozen foods must be stored in the freezer. Storing an item in the wrong place can cause it to spoil and may raise or lower the temperature of the food around it, causing it to spoil too.
- Last-in, first-out (LIFO): Always place new food items behind old ones. Doing so will help to ensure that older food can be used before its expiration date, and minimise food waste.
- Cooked food: If cooked food is being stored in the refrigerator or freezer, it should be left to cool to room temperature before being stored. If hot food is placed in a fridge or freezer, it can raise the temperature of the items around it and cause them to spoil faster.
- Canned foods: Open cans of food should never be stored in a fridge because of the risk of chemical contamination they pose. This is especially important for acidic foods like fruit. Therefore, before any canned food is placed in the fridge, it must be emptied into a suitable container first.
- Best before/use by: Always check the 'best before' and 'use by' dates printed on a food's packaging. Food that has passed its 'use by' date should not be eaten due to the growth of harmful bacteria, but food that has passed its 'best before' date can still be eaten because it is only an indicator of quality and not safety.
Proper Fridge Storage By Shelf
Top and middle shelves
These shelves should be used to store any ready-to-eat foods, such as dairy products, ready meals, leftovers and cooked meats. Each item should also be stored in a sealed container to avoid cross-contamination.
Raw meat, poultry, and fish should be stored on the bottom shelf of the fridge, and in airtight containers to prevent them from contaminating other foods.
The salad drawer of the fridge should be used to store all fruit and vegetables. Before storage, they should be washed and stored in their bags to prevent contamination.
For more information on food safety and hygiene, consider taking one of our Level 2 Food Hygiene courses: