food-safety | 5 mins read

How Can a Food Storage Temperature Chart Minimize Food Wastage?

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Sanchari Chatterjee

By Sanchari Chatterjee

Food Safety Practices for Restaurants

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that about 48 million people get sick due to foodborne illnesses in the United States every year. Another 128,000 are hospitalized and about 3,000 people die from these diseases each year. Here are four simple steps you can follow at your restaurant or retail food businesses while serving customers-

  1. Clean- Germs and bacteria can be anywhere, be it your hands or kitchen surfaces. The CDC thus advises washing hands for 20 seconds with soap and water before, after and also during food preparation. Also, wash the utensils, cutting boards etc with hot soapy water. Wash fresh fruits and vegetables under running water.
  2. Separate- Raw meat, eggs and poultry items can spread germs to other food products by contaminating them. This is why, as part of the food safety protocols, you must keep them separated.
  3. Cook- Cooking to the right temperature is another aspect of maintaining food safety. From ground meat to egg dishes and seafood, the FDA has specified a list of minimum internal temperatures you must maintain to properly cook each item. And this is essential to make sure the food does not carry harmful bacteria that may lead to food poisoning.
  4. Chill- Bacteria tends to multiply rapidly at room temperature. Thus, it is advised to not leave hot foods out in the open, at room temperature, for long hours, which will create a safe haven for bacterial growth. Refrigerate perishable foods within 2 hours of cooking.

Food Temperatures and Foodborne Illnesses- What's the Connection?

A key aspect of foodborne Disease Control is following the right food temperatures while cooking. Raw food items such as pork, lamb, poultry, egg dishes and seafood etc usually contain a lot of germs and bacteria that can give you severe foodborne illnesses if not cooked properly. Thus, it is extremely important that restaurants and kitchens cook these at high temperatures and maintain the minimum internal temperature to make sure these germs are eliminated.

You should also avoid cooking your food at extremely low temperatures as the risk of bacteria growth increases with this practice. Thus, it is critically important that you follow the recommended temperature guidelines while cooking food.

  • Certain vulnerable sections of the population are more at risk of catching foodborne illnesses. Pregnant women, children younger than 5 years and adults over 65 years are susceptible to these diseases.
  • Also, people whose immune systems are weakened due to other illnesses, treatment procedures etc are also vulnerable.

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What's a Food Storage Chart?

Food Safety is not just about the cooking bit as storage plays an equally important part in maintaining the quality and edibility of each item. Thus, the FDA has prepared a storage chart-

FoodRefrigerator (below 40 degrees F)Freezer (below 0 degrees F)
Hot dogs (opened package)
Hot dogs (unopened package)
1 week
2 weeks
1 to 2 months
1 to 2 months
Luncheon meat (opened)
Luncheon meat (unopened)
3 to 5 days
2 weeks
1 to 2 months
1 to 2 months
Bacon 1 week1 month
Hamburger, ground meats1 to 2 days3 to 4 months
Fresh beef, pork, lamb3 to 5 days4 to 12 months
Fresh poultry1 to 2 days1 year
Eggs (in shell)3 to 5 weeksDo not freeze
Salad3 to 4 daysDo not freeze well

How Can a Food Storage Temperature Chart Minimize Food Wastage?

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When you follow the food storage chart to maintain your stocks, you save yourself a lot of trouble of dealing with a pile of stale, contaminated food products. If you store meat, seafood, eggs and poultry items etc by following the temperature requirements as recommended by the food storage chart, you end up extending the shelf life of these items and thus prevent wastage.

For example, poultry products when stored in the freezer at a sub-zero temperature, it can be used even after one year. However, if left at room temperature for too long, poultry goods are bound to get contaminated and cause foodborne illnesses.

Hazard Analysis

Food Storage Temperatures and Tips for Red Meat and Poultry

  1. Meat, poultry, eggs, seafood, and other perishable food products should ideally be refrigerated within 2 hours of cooking at the right Food Temperature. The time gap reduces further to 1 hour if the outside temperature is over 90 degrees Fahrenheit as bacterial growth is at its peak at room temperature.
  2. If you are storing meat and poutry items in the refrigerator, try to maintain temperatures below 40 degrees F. Moreover, the freezer temperature should be below 0 degrees F.
  3. When there's a need to thaw meat and poultry, do not do it at room temperature by leaving them on the countertop. Bring them down from the freezer and keep them in the refrigerator if you are cooking later. If needed immediately, use cold water or microwave.

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Food Storage Temperatures and Tips for Vegetables

  1. There is no one temperature range that can be used to store all kinds of fruits and vegetables. The farm produces from different regions will be accustomed to different climate patterns, season patterns etc. Even the season of harvest and crop maturity plays an important role in the kind of storage requirements they have.
  2. According to the University of Maine, "A general rule for vegetables is that cool-season crops should be stored at cooler temperatures (32 to 35 degrees F), and warm-season crops should be stored at warmer temperatures (45 to 55 degrees F)."
  3. Low temperatures slow the respiration process of fruits and vegetables and thus, the ripening process as well. Thus, lower temperatures prolong the time fruits and vegetables can be stored.

Health Safety

Food Storage Temperatures and Tips for Fish and Dairy Products

  1. Milk, like other perishable food products, should not be left in the open or at room temperature for more than 2 hours. If it's summer, this time further reduces to 1 hour. After this, milk can start growing bacteria.
  2. Milk should ideally be stored in the refrigerator at 40 degrees F or below. Storing and serving milk at this temperature level extends its lifespan and also enhances the taste.
  3. It is advised to store milk at the coldest part of the refrigerator instead of the peripheral areas such as the door. This exposes the milk to the air and can contaminate it.

Food Nutrition

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