Food pans and storage solutions are essential for every commercial foodservice environment. From a food safety perspective, the right storage solutions and practices help prevent cross-contamination, assist operators in abiding by HACCP guidelines, and keep products fresh to reduce the risk of foodborne illness. From an operational perspective, proper food storage reduces waste, having a direct impact on your bottom line.
In a traditional foodservice environment, ingredients make up approximately 1/3 of operating costs. When food doesn’t look fresh in the kitchen, it doesn’t get served to your guests, getting tossed before it even hits the plate. According to a study conducted by the University of Arizona, 4 – 10% of food purchased by restaurants gets thrown out. That’s 49 million pounds of product each day.
Food spoils due to a combination of air and oxygen, moisture, light, bacterial growth, and temperature. Therefore, it’s pertinent to control the storage environment as much as possible to extend the shelf life of your product. The right food pan or storage container, and tight-fitting lid, such as Cambro seal covers, goes a long way to keeping out air, moisture, and bacterial cross-contamination.
Shelf life varies depending on the type of food and specific storage conditions it needs, but proper storage can certainly extend it and keep your product presentable, and safe, to serve. For example, strawberries, when left uncovered, have an average shelf life of two days. When wrapped in plastic wrap, the shelf life is extended to three days. Using foil to cover extends their shelf life to four days, whereas a Cambro seal cover can extend the shelf life of strawberries up to a full week.
Temperature also plays an important role is safe storage and shelf life preservation. As noted, different foods, especially varying types of produce, have different natural shelf lives and therefore different storage requirements to prolong it. Your walk-in cooler is warmest towards the door and gets cooler the farther back. The storage space closest to the door runs on average between 40°-45°F. This is an ideal space to store melons, citrus fruits like oranges and pineapple, cucumber, eggplant, peppers, avocados, and red potatoes.
The middle section of the cooler ranges between 35° and 39°F. This space is best reserved for herbs, green onions, squash, and sprouts. The back of the cooler is the coldest section with temperatures ranging between 33° and 35°F. This is ideal for most types of produce, including broccoli, cabbage, apples, celery, lettuce, asparagus, and more. Some produce isn’t meant to be stored in a cooler at all. These include potatoes, tomatoes, bananas, onions, lemons, and limes. Cambro’s Freshness Contained Brochure outlines proper storage suggestions to preserve shelf life on most common produce.
Store Food Safe: Best Practices for Storing Food to Prevent Cross-Contamination and Foodborne Illness
Reducing food waste, operational expenses, and extending shelf life of your products are only some of the benefits to proper storage. However, your food pans go a long way towards protecting your guests, and your business, from foodborne illness.
Contents stored in an uncovered, open container are exposed to other foods and potentially harmful contaminants that can lead to illness if consumed. Best practices include:
- Make sure all products are stored in clear containers with tight fitting lids to minimize handling and prevent air, moisture, and surrounding contaminants from infiltrating your product.
- Keep raw and cooked products separate, and cover with lids instead of plastic wrap to prevent raw foods from leaking onto ready-to-eat products.
- Cover, label, and date all containers using dissolvable labels that reduce the risk of bacteria from sticking. Ensure all products are completely enclosed.
- Implement a first in, first out rotation system so the oldest food is used first.
Cambro’s Store Safe, Store Fresh Guide walks through the entire process, from receiving to serving, to ensure food safety practices are followed every step of the way.
Cambro Storage Solutions to Preserve Freshness, Reduce Food Waste, Prevent Cross-Contamination, & Protect Your Bottom Line
Cambro’s plentiful assortment of food storage solutions is designed for all commercial foodservice environments to keep your products looking fresher longer, reduce food waste, and protect your bottom line. View Cambro’s Ultimate Food Pan Guide to see all options.
Some of Cambro’s most popular options include:
Cambro Camwear® food storage boxes are designed, not only to preserve freshness and increase product shelf life, but to help keep your storage areas organized. They are made of clear polycarbonate to assist in easily identifying contents, which helps save time and reduce the risk of cross-contamination, as well as withstands the day to day rigors of commercial use with a temperature range of -40° to 210°F. Camwear® food storage boxes stack securely, fit standard carts for ready transport, and are dishwasher safe.
A traditional food storage favorite, Camwear® round containers enable proper air circulation which helps withstand temperatures between -40° to 210°F. Given their wider size, their great to use to quickly cool off or freeze large quantities safely. They also feature red imprinted graduation marks to easily view remaining contents to help inventory control.
CamSquare® containers are also available in an allergen-free, purple design to assist in avoiding cross-contact of common allergens to better protect guests.
Various configurations of tight-fitting lids are available for Cambro pans to lock in freshness and enhance shelf-life and operational efficiencies. Cambro seal and GripLid® covers are best for storage, offering a seal tight fit to keep out air, moisture, and contaminants. GripLid® covers featured a molded-in gasket that grips the side of the pan for a tight seal that eliminates spills during transport from cooler to prep area.
Additional cover configurations include handles for a secure grip, a standard flat option, a notched FlipLid® that includes a place for spoons and flip up for easy access, drain shelves to support products and promote drainage, and a colander for prepping produce, defrosting meats, and storing seafood.
Don’t forget food pan labels to help with food rotation and communicate to staff the items with a shelf life drawing to a close so they know to use those first. Some foodservices make the mistake of using masking tape and sticky labels; however, did you know that roaches and flies are attracted to the residue left behind from these, and that it can be a breeding ground for bacteria? Cambro StoreSafe® labels prevent this by featuring an adhesive that dissolves in less than 30 seconds so no sticky residue is left behind.
Chase joined Central Restaurant Products in February 2016 as a Content Specialist, bringing to the role years of various foodservice experience, including front-of-house service (slingin’ chicken wings and libations with a smile on his face) and back-of-house food prep using heavy-duty commercial cooking equipment to prepare for peak dining hours at his university’s dining hall.
He puts this experience to use writing for Central’s Resource Center, website, and print catalog. ServSafe certified, he enjoys educating on food safety in the commercial setting, researching new dining room and tabletop trends, and sharing innovative solutions to enhance operational efficiencies. He also enjoys (in no specific order) long hikes with his dog, bingeing 90s sitcoms, red wine, and live music.