Food Labeling, Rotation & Employee Tips
By: Cindy Rice, RS, CP-FS, MSPH Eastern Food Safety
Many foodservice workers have been instructed to comply with regulations for labeling and rotating foods, but sometimes these methods are not effectively communicated to them. Training staff to label and rotate products correctly is a critical management task to ensure consistency and compliance.
The basic components of a FIFO food rotation program include date-marking foods, rotating products by date, storing the oldest foods in the front and using oldest foods first, and checking expiration dates and discarding expired products.
Take a look at these guidelines that can make for easier, more effective food labeling and rotation, and tips for effectively training your staff on FIFO practices.
Food Labeling Tips
- A common challenge in foodservice is multiple containers of the same product in use. In addition to the required date-marking on products, a colorful “Use First” label easily signals which container to pull first, reducing duplication and encouraging more timely usage of the product.
- Take out the guesswork from labeling by using color-coded day-of-the-week labels. At a glance, the label color indicates which day the food should be used by and does not depend on words alone. Color-coded food rotation labels encourage product rotation by color/date and help enforce use-by dates.
- Choose the right label adhesive for the right job. For easy removal of labels from pans, choose an adhesive that peels off easily or dissolves completely during warewashing to eliminate label residue on containers. For labeling packaged products in the cooler, freezer or dry storage, select a label with a permanent adhesive that will securely fasten to containers and will not fall off.
- Programmable automatic label printers also help take the guesswork out of food rotation labeling. Auto-labelers save time, ensure consistency of labeling information, and eliminate mistakes in calculating dates since the printer is pre-programmed for food items. The label information can be managed online and updated with changes.
- Date-marked and color-coded portion bags encourage food rotation by date. They have the added advantage of standardizing portion sizes, which also helps to save in food costs by eliminating over-portioning.
Food Rotation Tips
- In the receiving area, products should be labeled before storage, and rotated and used according to their use-by or sell-by date and/or use first label.
- Products should be arranged on shelving with the newest foods in back of older foods and consistently rotated, using expiration dates as the guide.
- After preparation, date-mark products with their use-by dates, use first labels or whatever standards your company sets internally. Rotate accordingly.
- In serving lines, salad bars, deli units, put out smaller portions out at a time and use oldest “backup” containers of foods first.
Employee Training Tips
- Communicate to workers the importance of proper food labeling, including the benefits to food quality, cost management, and food safety.
- Once you determine the appropriate information on the label, demonstrate to employees how to fill out labels, using a consistent labeling method.
- Show staff how to arrange products in coolers according to discard date, how to rotate products accordingly.
- Demonstrate how and where to discard products, with appropriate “discard records,” if necessary, in your operation.
- Maintain a stock of the right labeling supplies: labels, label racks or displays, markers.
- Overcome language barriers and learning differences of employees by considering visual aids, training 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.
Minimizing food waste and the resulting loss of profit and maintaining food quality for a superior customer experience are great reasons to implement a strong food rotation program in your operation. The bottom line is that a consistent labeling and FIFO rotation works to keep foods safe and preserve quality. This translates into satisfied customers and a healthy business.