We’ve all left food in the fridge a little longer than we should. While a dirty refrigerator at home can be unappealing, a dirty refrigerator at your restaurant or grocery store can create unsafe conditions for your product and customers. Raw meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy are the most common carriers of food-borne illness. Ensuring proper walk-in cooler organization is the first step to prevent product contamination, cross-contamination, and ensuring product safety. Here are seven things to keep in mind when organizing your commercial fridge:
1. Keep Your Refrigerator Cool
45 °F or below, to be exact (according to most state laws). Many state health codes suggest a maximum of 40 °F for meat storage. Make sure your refrigerator is equipped with at least one easy-to-read, reliable thermometer. Securing an accurate thermometer toward the front of the unit will help you easily ensure food is kept at a safe temperature and does not spoil.
2. Mind The Gap
It’s important to leave space above & below shelving units as well as between stored food to allow ample room for cleaning and air flow. Install the lowest shelf of your refrigerated case shelving least 6 inches above the floor. (Note: food cannot be stored on the floor of the refrigerator!)
Another common mistake is packing the walk-in too full. This makes it so that air cannot properly circulate and may create a temperature imbalance. Leave space between stored items and leave space above items on the top shelf and the ceiling so air may flow freely throughout the unit.
3. Location, Location, Location
Store potentially hazardous food separate from prepared or ready to eat foods. A general rule of thumb is to store prepared food on the highest shelves, then produce below that, and lastly raw meats on the bottom shelves. To avoid unwanted drips, store meat in this order top to bottom: fish and seafood, beef and pork, and finally poultry. Another strategy is to store prepared food and produce closer to the front of the refrigerator and dairy and meat toward the back to avoid unwanted cross-contamination.
4. First in, First Out
The common adage “first in, first out” is a simple phrase to remember to use the oldest (non-expired, of course) product first. Establish clear restocking methods to place new food toward the back, allowing things that need to be used first to occupy space most accessible on the shelf. Which brings us to our next point…
5. Date & Label
Everything in your cooler should have a clearly displayed label noting date received or prepared as well as expiration date. This makes it much easier to keep to the first in, first out rule and also clearly identifies when food items are unsafe to use and should therefore be discarded.
6. Clean Regularly
Many food contamination concerns can be avoided by cleaning your refrigeration unit regularly, both in and out. In fact, it’s recommended that commercial refrigeration system coils are cleaned every 30 to 90 days.
7. Consult Local Health Code
Lastly, check with your health department to make sure your facility follows local requirements that may affect your area.
At Borgen, we create custom refrigeration cases that are specifically tailored to your needs and oftentimes even inspired by them. We understand the need for not just visually interesting and efficient, but easily maintainable displays. In fact, our DekFRESH technology™ is an innovative, easy to clean commercial cooling system that eliminates areas of food contamination. With no vents and no pans to remove or clean, what you see is what you clean. Ensure product safety and contact a Borgen representative today.