Fridge temperatures and other tips

Certain types of foods, especially high protein and high moisture foods provide perfect growth conditions for microorganisms, both pathogenic and spoilage types. These foods can be both ready to eat and raw, bacteria will not distinguish between the two. Low temperatures of between 1- 5°c will, in most cases slow bacterial growth down considerably, which is why foods are refrigerated to this low temperature. 

One or two bacteria, known as psychrotrophs can multiply at normal rates even at very low temperatures in a refrigerated unit e.g. Listeria monocytogenes and clostridium botulinum. Strict temperature control of refrigerated units must be maintained at all times to keep the risk level as low as possible. 

What types of food should go in a fridge?

  • Cooked meats and fish, meat and fish products 
  • Cooked poultry and poultry products 
  • Cooked or prepared products containing eggs or dairy products
    (Any of the above that are raw)
  • Prepared salads and dressings 
  • Soft cheeses and mould-ripened cheeses 
  • Smoked and cured fish 
  • Shellfish 
  • Raw scombroid fish such as tuna, mackerel and sardines.
  • Sandwiches contains any of the above products 
  • Opened products that are hermetically sealed 
  • Low acidity desserts and cream products 
  • Fresh and partly cooked pasta and dough products 
  • Smoked and cured meats that are capable of supporting bacterial growth 
  • Any other food capable of supporting bacterial growth 


What temperature should a fridge be?

UK law says a fridge must store high risk foods below 8°c. However, the ideal temperature for a fridge is below 5°c in order to ensure that the temperature never reaches above 8°c. There will be some instances where the unit temperature rises above 5°c, but this should be the exception, not the rule. A temperature of 8°c is the critical limit, any breach of this limit is when corrective actions must be implemented to bring the temperature back to a safe limit as quickly as possible. 

Cold food may be kept above 8°c to accommodate certain practicalities for a period of up to 4 hours. This can only happen once, no matter how short the period of time. Food which remains at the end of service period should be discarded. 

You should record the temperature of each fridge unit, twice a day, in your Pilla Management Diary or similar. This should be done once in the morning and once in the afternoon.

Fridge organisation, separation and rotation 

Raw and high-risk foods must always be separated from each other at all times, preferably in separate fridges. If this is not possible, then raw foods should be stored below the high-risk products to avoid drip contamination. Raw foods defrosting in a fridge must always be contained within an outer tray or receptacle to catch drips and avoid further contamination of fridge and other products. 

Refrigerated units must not be overloaded, air flow must be allowed to move around the back and sides of the inside of the unit and in between foods. Overloading can cause temperature fluctuations in the foods which can increase risk of bacterial multiplication.

High risk and batch cooked foods must be labelled correctly and only kept for a period of three days including the day of production e.g. Prepared on Tuesday, must be used before end of last shift on Thursday. Foods that have been frozen, must first undergo full defrosting, then must be used within 24 hours once defrosted. 

Ensure use by dates are checked regularly and foods are used in rotation. Food which has exceeded its use by date must be removed from and discarded. Opened and cooked foods must be labelled correctly to avoid problems.  Foods that are displaying signs of spoilage or decay, even if use by date has not been reached, must also be discarded. 

Foods that are stored or displayed in refrigerated units must be covered adequately to prevent the risk of physical, allergenic and microbiological contamination. Using cloths or tea towels to cover food is unacceptable and must be avoided. Instead, food grade storage containers or food grade food wrappings must be used.