Are you overlooking these best practices for storing dry goods?

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When it comes to food storage, the spotlight is usually on extremely perishable items like fruit, vegetables and dairy products. Dry and canned goods don't require as much attention. Everyone probably has a can of spinach or beans buried in the back of our home cupboards that was produced in 2005. It seems like these kinds of products can be stored just about anywhere, as long as pests don't get in and the temperature never gets too hot. That's true to some extent, but the fact remains that dry goods still require care and attention. Below are some important dry goods storage best practices that are often overlooked.

In preparing a food storage space, the ideal situation is to start from the ground up. According to Food Safety magazine, the advent of single-use items such as ready-to-eat food, disposable silverware, hygiene products and storage containers has led to a sharp increase in volume of goods needed to run a restaurant or cafeteria. Older buildings therefore do not have the necessary space required to properly store everything they need to operate in the 21st century. When this is the case, storage areas can get crowded, and things tend to slip through the cracks. To make planning for space easier, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration released the following helpful equation:

(square feet) =
Volume per meal x Number of meals between deliveries
Average height x Fraction of usable storeroom floor area

If there isn't enough floor space available to hold the dry goods required to make meals between deliveries, shelving can be constructed if the room has available height. The Minnesota Department of Health recommended that shelving never be made of unfinished wood, but rather of wood finished with a glossy paint or laminate. The walls of the storage area may be constructed of brick or porous concrete, whereas those materials shouldn't be used in food preparation areas.

The article further stated that businesses often submit proposals for dry goods storage areas that are wildly inappropriate. Submissions included proposals for storage in mechanical rooms, garbage rooms and bathrooms.

Even canned goods need to be stored properly.Even canned goods need to be stored properly.

The three main conditions to be concerned with are temperature, humidity and lighting. According to the Nebraska state government grocery stores additionally require separate storage areas for each department of the store that handles unpacked goods. In other words, departments such as bakery, deli and produce should never share a storage unit.

When it comes to temperature, the cooler the better. Food Safety magazine suggested temperatures be kept between 50 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. To maintain these temperatures, the room should be well-ventilated and all pipes should be insulated. The magazine further stated that humidity levels are best kept under 15 percent and any food not stored in its original container should be kept in an airtight vessel. Finally, lighting should be kept at a minimum of 10 foot-candles or about 108 lumens per square meter, said the Minnesota Department of Health.

"Record food items as they go in and out of the room so that nothing stays longer than it should." 

Other important concerns
In addition to the above conditions and construction requirements, store rooms must be constantly monitored for pest infestations. Beetles and moths love to burrow into grains and flour. Pennsylvania State University said that more often than not, insects arrive in the food from the warehouse rather than infest food at the supermarket or restaurant. This means that, once the infested food is found and disposed of, the chances of further infestation are greatly reduced. 

Finally, record keeping is the last and best way to properly maintain a storage area. Record food items as they go in and out of the room so that nothing stays longer than it should, and keep a record of any spills, damage or pest encounters. Keeping clear records prevents the future headache of digging through inventory and helps other staff members know the situation at a glance.

Don't overlook these important best practices for dry goods storage. By properly maintaining storage areas, costs stay low and inventory stays fresh longer.

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