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Food Rotation System for Restaurants | Ecolab Food Safety Solutions

Regulations for Labeling and Rotation

By Cindy Rice, RS, CP-FS, MSPH Eastern Food Safety

For a foodservice operator there are few things that are more frustrating than food waste. Imagine finding moldy foods in the walk-in, expired dry goods on the shelf, or rotten, wilted produce buried beneath cases of newer product. You can just see your hard-earned dollars going down the drain in an instant. On the other hand, using safe but less-than-optimum products can be a compromise to food quality and guest experience.

Our best defense against these losses is a good food rotation program with proper labeling and First in-First out procedures, commonly referred to as FIFO. Most foodservice workers, no matter what their job level or position, have heard the term FIFO, but when asked the details of how to label and rotate products, they’re not always as confident. What are the scientific reasons behind First in-First out food rotation, and why is a good labeling and food rotation program essential for foodservice operations? How does FIFO affect food quality, food safety and cost controls in your operation?

keep food fresh and safe


The basic tenets of a FIFO program include:

  • Date-marking foods
  • Rotating products by date in coolers and on storage shelves
  • Storing the oldest foods in the front and using oldest foods first
  • Checking expiration dates and discarding expired products

refridgerate prepared foods


According to the 2017 FDA Food code which is followed in many jurisdictions:

  • Foods must be date-marked if they are not to be used within 24 hours of preparation.
  • Refrigerated prepared foods or leftovers must be used within 7 days of preparation.
  • Food contact surfaces must be clean and free of debris. Debris includes food labels and label adhesive residue: if previously labeled containers are not cleaned properly, health department violations could result from label remnants or adhesive residue left behind on equipment and food containers.
  • Some operators may have stricter requirements for labeling and food rotation. In addition, you should check with your local health department to identify the requirements in your jurisdiction.

While food safety is the primary concern with these FDA code references, a consistent food rotation and labeling program can provide for better food quality and cost controls at the same time. In Part 2 and 3 of the Beyond FIFO series, we will explore each of these factors that are affected by food rotation, address some of the most common issues establishments face, and provide solutions that can help you maintain a strong FIFO program in your operation.

Continue reading part 2 of this Beyond FIFO series.

First-In First-Out Food Rotation Labeling

Help keep food safe, preserve food quality & minimize food waste with a strong First-In First-Out (FIFO) program.