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Houston Department of Health and Human Services > Food Inspection and Safety (Consumer Health) > Food Safety Tips > Cold Storage of Food

Cold Storage of Food - Safety and Energy Tips

Proper cold storage of potentially hazardous food is critical. According to published studies, holding food too long at room temperatures is responsible for more than 40 percent of food borne illnesses in the US. According to the food-safety rules, food must be cooled to 41F or below within six hours after cooking/heating.

  • Properly cool food that is hot before refrigerating. Food that is too hot when placed in the refrigerator can elevate the temperature of surrounding items. Use small shallow containers, ice baths, quick chill, stirring liquid food, etc.
  • Store cold food items at a refrigerator temperature (40F or lower) to stay below the 45F temperature danger zone.
  • Store raw meat (beef) above pork and pork above poultry. Proper storage prevents cross contamination. Store ready-to-serve foods in separate units or above the raw foods.
  • Carefully wrap all food in moisture-proof materials or containers. Covering minimizes cross contamination, odor absorption, flavor loss, discoloration and dehydration.
  • Do not store food on the floor of a walk in refrigerator or freezer. Store all food at least six inches above the floor on a rack or shelf. Clean and sanitize all interior parts of the units regularly.
  • Do not overload refrigerator or freezer. Please provide proper air circulation for proper temperature. Avoid constant opening of the doors to the refrigerator/freezer units. Warmer air affects the internal temperature, while the humidity that enters the unit increases the need for defrosting.
  • Regularly check the unit temperature and do not set the temperature lower than necessary.
  • Clean mold and grime from the gaskets to ensure a tight seal. Replace gaskets and seals as they show wear.
  • Store frequently used items near the door. Keep the door tightly shut. Open doors only when necessary.
  • Inspect and service electric motors. Lubricate hinges and latches. Inspect the compressor belts and the condenser. Be sure condensation from coils is not dripping onto food.

    This will not only help you keep your food safe but may reduce your energy bill.

For further information, please call the Bureau of Consumer Health Services at 713-794-9200.

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Contact the HDHHS Bureau of Consumer Health Services