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Food Safety Helps Your Bottom Line | Ecolab Food Safety
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Food Safety Helps Your Bottom Line

One of the easiest ways to control costs is having a good food rotation and labeling system, which can help you manage costs even more than comparing distributors’ pricing, purchasing in larger quantities, or shopping at large discount stores. A consistent food rotation program can help you get a better sense of your actual product needs, reduce waste, and lead to more cost-efficient ordering practices.


Imagine the feeling when you get to the bottom of a case of lettuce, and the last few heads are unusable, rotten and brown, or when you discover a bloated package of vacuum-packed steak tips that needs to be discarded. These represent real hard-earned dollars down the drain. Restaurants throw away millions of dollars of food every year, and one national study1found that food establishments throw away between 4 and 10 percent of foods before they even reach the customer, due to four main factors: overproduction, expired products, food spoilage, and overtrimming meats and produce.


Food safety is impacted as well: food spoilage contributes to increased bacterial growth. This increased risk of foodborne illness can be costly to businesses on many levels- the average cost of an outbreak is approximately $75,000, according to National Restaurant Association statistics2, and many businesses never recover from such an event.


Cost savings and inventory control are right before your eyes, with these important tips:

  • Train staff to not waste food, and to closely follow “First In, First Out (FIFO)” rotation principles - i.e. oldest foods are used first and before they expire, when they are at their peak of freshness and before they've had a chance to wilt or decline in quality.
  • Portion out food items before service to eliminate tendency to over serve particular menu items. One extra shrimp or scallop per serving can result in dramatically increased food costs in the blink of an eye!
  • Portion bags can be date-marked and color-coded, encouraging food rotation by date. They have the added advantage of standardizing portion sizes, which also helps to save in food costs.
  • Explain clearly to workers the reasons why food labeling and rotation is important and the risks to quality, safety and cost controls if not done properly.
  • Label both refrigerated and dry products with their "Use-by" or "Expiration" dates. Refrigerated prepared foods or leftovers must be used within 7 days of preparation. Your company may have stricter shelf-life limits.
  • Demonstrate how to fill out labels, how to calculate Use-by/discard dates, and use a consistent labeling method such as pre-printed labels or programmable printer. Remember that the FDA Food Code requires that ready-to-eat TCS (Temperature Control for Safety) foods should be labeled with their Use-by date before refrigeration, if they will not be used within 24 hours
  • Train staff how to arrange products in coolers, i.e., older products in the front so they may be used first, and to stay ahead of disease-causing or spoilage bacteria, and how to rotate products accordingly.
  • Demonstrate how and where to discard products, with appropriate “discard records,” if necessary in your operation.
  • Maintain labeling supplies: labels, label racks or displays, markers
  • Store labeling materials in an area that is conveniently located and accessible to work areas, to save time and make it easy for workers to complete
  • Overcome language barriers and learning differences of employees by considering visual aids, posters, color-coded labels, programmable printers and portion bags. These can help take the guesswork out of the system and eliminate mistakes in date-marking and rotation.


The benefits are right before your eyes when you practice safe food handling and good food rotation methods.


Customer Satisfaction. Foods will be more wholesome, with improved quality, freshness, taste, appearance and texture, leading to repeat customers


Food Safety. Date-marking and rotating foods can help lower the risk of harmful bacterial growth, resulting in safer foods and reduced liability of foodborne illness.


Cost Savings. Reduced product waste or loss, inventory control and more efficient ordering practices, more consistent employee behaviors, and improved compliance on inspections.


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