Fact Sheet FS1 Section 6 (Food Storage, Preparation and Handling)

Fact Sheet 6: Important Points for Food Storage, Preparation and Handling

Purchasing & Receiving Food

  • Only buy from reliable suppliers. 
  • Write or speak to your suppliers detailing the conditions you want the food to be delivered in. 
  • Maintain a list of your approved food suppliers. 
  • Inspect all food deliveries from your suppliers and keep goods delivery records. 
  • Observe whether the driver and the truck are clean and check that the vehicle is not carrying any animal(s) or chemicals in the same area as the food. 
  • Make sure food is protected by proper packaging and/or containers. 
  • Transfer all deliveries into a suitable storage area as soon as possible. 
  • Make sure that all products are properly labelled, including the product
    • Name and address of the manufacturer, 
    • a batch code or date code, 
    • an ingredient list and 
    • allergen information. 
  • All products should be within dates. 
  • Look for any visible signs of insects, insect eggs or other items that should not be with food, such as dirt, glass and rubbish. 
  • Measure the temperature of at least one food item in every delivery from each supplier of high-risk food. 
  • For new suppliers, check the temperature of each delivery for the first month of supply. 
  • Check the temperature of each delivery for any supplier you feel is not consistently meeting temperature requirements. 
  • Tap frozen foods to test that they are frozen hard. 

*Records to use:

    • Approved supplier list
    • Goods receiving form

Refrigerated Food Storage

  • Food poisoning bacteria can grow in high-risk foods if they are not stored at the correct temperature. 
  • Store cold food at or below 5°C. 
  • Measure core temperatures of food stored in the refrigerator. 
  • Make sure high-risk food is date-coded, including the date the product was opened/repacked. 
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for storing opened products. 
  • Food prepared on the premises needs to be marked with the date made. 
  • Rotate stock and use older stock first to make sure foods are not kept too long. 
  • Store ready-to-eat food separately from raw food by providing a separate refrigerator or freezer. 
  • If this is not possible, store ready-to-eat food above raw food and in covered containers.

Frozen storage

  • Check the temperature inside the freezer using a thermometer. It should be below -15°C.
  • Record freezer temperatures  in the Food Safety Program.
  • Freeze foods in thin slices or shallow containers to speed up the freezing process: smaller portions freeze (and defrost) more quickly.
  • Do not refreeze thawed food.
  • Do not overload the freezer because food over the 'load-line' will not be at the correct temperature.
  • Wrap all foods to prevent cross-contamination and freezer burn. 
  • Label all foods with type of product, date of packaging/freezing, ’use-by’ date and initials/name of person who packed the product.
  • If food shows signs of thawing, either continue thawing or use it immediately. 


Dry Storage – dried and canned foods

  • Store canned and dried foods in a cool, dry and dark place.
  • Dry food can be affected and contaminated by chemicals, pests and allergens.
  • Make sure all stored food is labelled so you are sure of the ingredients.
  • Most canned foods have been sterilised during processing. Once they have been opened, however, you must treat the contents as you would fresh foods. 
  • Regularly check for any signs of pest infestation or contaminants.
  • Don’t store cleaning chemicals in the dry storage area.


Preparation and Cooking of food

  • Make sure that people involved with food preparation have the skills and knowledge to do so safely.
  • Separate utensils, color coded chopping boards, bowls etc, should be used in the preparation of raw and cooked foods. If this is impractical, equipment must be thoroughly washed and sanitised between use.
  • Thoroughly wash all fruit and vegetables in clean water before use, to remove soil, bacteria, insects and any chemical residue.
  • Wear clean clothes for food preparation.
  • Ensure correct food storage practices are implemented, i.e. food is covered and refrigerated at or below 5ºC.
  • Raw food is stored below cooked foods.
  • Have ongoing staff training and monitoring of staff practices.
  • Create recipe cards for staff with clear instructions on cooking times and temperatures and adjust if necessary. 
  • Check your activity log records to ensure that food is cooked safely. Adjust recipe cards if necessary. 
  • Preheat cooking equipment before use; otherwise, food will take longer to cook and cooking times in recipes or manufacturer’s instructions may not be long enough to kill bacteria. 
  • To check a pork joint or rolled meat joint, insert a skewer into the centre until juices run out. The juices should not have any pink or red in them. 
  • Turn meat and poultry during cooking as this helps it to cook more evenly – check core temperature.
  • Avoid cold spots in liquid dishes by stirring frequently.
  • Cook eggs and foods containing eggs thoroughly. Eggs can contain food poisoning bacteria (salmonella). Cooking them thoroughly can kill bacteria. Do not use eggs that are dirty, cracked, damaged, or past their use-by date.
  • Before cooking mussels and clams, throw away any with open or damaged shells.
  • Some dried pulses (such as red kidney beans) contain natural toxins that could make people ill unless they are destroyed by soaking and cooking. Follow the instructions on packaging.
  • All meat cooked on a spit needs to be used during one service or sitting. Do not leave meat out overnight. Chicken on spits needs to be cooked thoroughly and each serving should be heated thoroughly on a hot plate to make sure it is fully cooked and safe to eat.

Defrosting or Thawing Frozen Food

  • When thawing food, place it in the bottom of the refrigerator to ensure it remains under 5°C throughout the thawing process.
  • Remember, however, that defrosting foods this way can take up to two days.
  • Use a microwave oven if time is limited – always use food immediately after thawing in the microwave.
  • Cover food to protect from cross-contamination while thawing.
  • Never leave food on the bench to thaw.
  • Never leave food in warm water to thaw.

Cooling foods safely

  • Using a thermometer, check that the internal temperature reduces from 60°C to 21°C within two hours and then to 5°C within another four hours (2hr 4hr Rule).
  • You can cool quantities of hot foods quickly by transferring the food to shallow containers, standing containers in water or ice, stirring frequently to aid cooling.
  • Check that the temperature of the refrigerator does not rise above 5°C while cooling.
  • Food straight from the stove can be left to cool on a bench for no more than two hours.
  • The MAXIMUM time you should leave food out of the refrigerator is a total of four hours. This is the total life of the product.
  • The two-hour/four-hour rule applies to ready-to-eat potentially hazardous food. The rule provides guidance on how long this type of food can be held at temperatures between 5°C and 60°C, without cooking and what should happen to it after certain times. This refers to the total amount of time the food has been out of temperature control, including preparation and cooling, not just display times.


Reheating Food

  • Only reheat cooked food once. 
  • Always reheat food until it is hot (75°C or hotter) all the way through. 
  • Do not use bains-marie to reheat food because they cannot achieve a food temperature of 75°C within one hour. 
  • Where possible, stir or mix food to make sure there are no cold spots and the food is evenly reheated. 
  • Preheat equipment such as ovens and grills before use; otherwise, food will take longer to reheat and recommended reheating times in recipes or manufacturer’s instructions might not be long enough to kill bacteria. 
  • If you are reheating food in a microwave, follow the manufacturer’s instructions, including advice on standing and stirring. The manufacturer has tested their instructions to make sure that foods will be properly reheated. - When food is microwaved, it can be very hot at the edges and still be cold in the centre – regular stirring helps to prevent this. 
  • Protect food from cross-contamination by using clean utensils and equipment during any handling. 
  • Check your activity log records to ensure that food is reheated safely. Adjust recipe cards or equipment settings if necessary. 

Displaying and Serving Food

The display and self-service of food can be a high-risk practice since untrained people may have access to the food. Food can become contaminated in a number of ways:

  • Bains-marie or hot holding units are designed to keep hot food hot, but must not be used for reheating food as they cannot reach 75°C within one hour. If a bain-marie tray is overloaded, the food’s temperature might not be maintained at 60°C or hotter. 
  • Heat foods correctly and make sure that a different serving tool or utensil is used for each food item or dish. 
  • Make sure the display unit and utensils are clean and sanitised before use.  
  • During service replace soiled serving utensils with clean ones. 
  • If food is packaged, make sure the packaging is not damaged or broken. 
  • Inform suppliers that they are required by law to comply with the FSANZ  Food Standards Code Part 1.2, Application of Labelling and Other Information Requirements, including Standard 1.2.3. All packaged food must be labelled according to the Code. 
  • Throw away single-use items after use, including straws, paper towels, cups and plates. 
  • Check that labels used on food or garnishes are clean and dry before use. 
  • Serve reheated food quickly where possible or maintain it at 60°C or hotter. 
  • Never reuse self-serve, high-risk food that is either cooked or ready-to-eat. 
  • Ensure accurate product information is available for customers with allergies and ensure that foods containing allergens are stored, processed and displayed separately from other foods. 
  • Handle separately unpackaged foods that contain known allergens and use separate utensils.


Food Packaging

  • If you pack food, you have the responsibility to ensure that the process, including packaging material, does not cause a food safety risk.
  • Only use clean and uncontaminated packaging material.  Store packaging in its original container or in a clean area away from chemicals, pests, dust or other contaminants.
  • Check that the packaging material is designed for the food that is to be packed.
  • Do not reuse single use takeaway containers. 
  • Label food appropriately at the time of packaging to meet the requirements of FSANZ Food Standards Code Part 1.2, Application of Labelling and Other Information Requirements. Refer to 1.2.3, Mandatory Warning and Advisory Statements and Declarations for information on allergens. 
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