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Proper Food Storage in Commercial KitchensAs long ago as prehistoric times, man knew that his game would last longer if he packed it in snow or stored it in the coolness of a cave. The science of refrigeration has continued to evolve. We all know that refrigeration is important but do we know why?
Bacteria exists everywhere in nature, including in the soil, air, water and foods we eat and in the right conditions bacteria can grow rapidly to the point of causing illness. Refrigeration helps to slow bacteria growth by keeping foods under 40 degrees and out of the danger zone where bacteria can grow quite rapidly. According to the USDA, keeping your refrigerator set at 40 degrees or below will protect most foods.
There are two types of bacteria in refrigerated foods, Pathogenic bacteria and Spoilage bacteria. Pathogenic bacteria can grow rapidly when not kept between 40 and 140 degrees. The problem with Pathogenic bacteria is they do not affect taste, smell or appearance so you wouldn’t know food is bad until it is too late.
Spoilage bacteria can still grow while in the refrigerator at the proper temperature but they would cause food to smell, taste or look bad so most people would not choose to eat it. And if for some reason, someone still chose to overlook the bad smell, taste and appearance and still eat the food, they would likely not get sick. Spoilage bacteria are more of a quality issue while Pathogenic bacteria are a safety issue.
Safe handling of food is important in preventing bacteria growth or contaminating other foods. Hot food can be rapidly chilled in cold water before refrigeration or it can be placed directly into the refrigerator still hot. Keep foods covered to retain moisture and prevent them from picking up odors from other foods. Large amounts of food like stews or soups should be divided into smaller portions and placed in shallow containers for refrigeration. The same should be done with large cuts of meat.
Raw meat, poultry and seafood should be placed in a sealed container with a lid to prevent raw juices from contaminating your refrigerator.
Never store perishable items on the door of your refrigerator. The temperature there fluctuates more and can allow bacteria growth.
Even when stored correctly, perishable foods are only good for so long in the refrigerator. For more details on safe time limits that will keep foods from spoiling, you can reference the USDA website.