Managing the cold chain is different for every link in the chain, and maintaining temperature integrity is most important in food service operations. Restaurants belong to the food service industry and are responsible for managing multiple links in the cold chain. Below are some best practices for managing different links in the cold chain.
Receiving goods is the first cold chain link. Before accepting a load of perishable items, the temperature should be checked to ensure the cold chain has been maintained during shipping. The load should also be inspected for unusual amounts of frost or ice, which would indicate that there was thawing and refreezing during shipping. If unusual amounts of frost or ice are found or if the temperature is several degrees higher than acceptable, the load should be rejected.
Refridgerated Food Storage
The next step in the cold chain for restaurants is refrigerated storage. Minor elevations in storage temperature can greatly increase the number of pathogenic organisms in the stored food. The risk of illness is directly related to the number of bacteria present for most foodborne illnesses. Once a load is accepted, the perishables must be moved to refrigerated storage immediately.
When moving a load to refrigerated storage, it is important to practice first-in first-out (FIFO) inventory procedures. When practicing FIFO, all older items in the refrigeration units should be checked for expiration and moved to the front of the shelves, and the new shipment should be placed behind the older items. If this practice is done correctly and consistently, expired food should never be served to patrons. Refrigerated storage units keep products cool by circulating refrigerated air throughout the unit. Because of this cooling method, it is important to maintain adequate space around cartons and pallets to ensure the cold chain is maintained during storage.
Another concern with refrigerated storage is mold growth. Allowing warm, moist air to enter refrigerated storage units can result in mold growth. If mold is allowed to grow in storage units, it can become a serious health risk and result in expensive cleaning or replacement costs.
To prevent mold growth and keep the cold chain strong, refrigerated storage units should not be opened continuously throughout the day, and the doors should never be propped open to load a shipment or remove expired food.
Because the cold chain is only as strong as its weakest link, restaurants should strive to manage all links in which they are involved. Choosing reputable shipping companies, managing deliveries, and properly storing perishables will help restaurants to strengthen their links in the cold chain.