Knowing how to correctly store and label food is an imperative part of restaurant health and safety. This guide will give a definitive breakdown of how to do just that, with information on pre-cooked, chilled, ambient and frozen food storage; as well as labelling information for prepacked and non-prepacked foods.

Storing pre-cooked food

Unless pre-cooked food is about to be consumed, it should be chilled as quickly as possible – within 2 hours – and should be consumed within 2 days. The food should be separated into individual portions ideally in closed food storage bins or containers. This is to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria and to maintain food safety.

Storing chilled food

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, all chilled food legally must be stored at a maximum temperature of 8°c, however, ideally it should be stored at around 5°c. It’s recommended to check your fridge or cooling equipment a minimum of once a day to ensure the temperature remains constant; this is imperative to prevent bacteria from damaging the food. Raw meat and food that is ready to eat should be preferably stored apart; however if this isn’t possible, raw meat should be kept on the bottom shelves of your fridge. It’s also important to note that chilled food can be kept outside of the fridge for up to 4 hours although after this, it must either be eaten or thrown away.

Storing ambient food

Ambient food is any food that can be safely stored at room temperature in sealed equipment such as food grade container trucks. Typically, it will have a best before date rather than a use-by date and will more than likely have a longer shelf life. This is because with ambient food, quality is usually affected first before any food safety is compromised.

Storing frozen food

Frozen food should be kept at a temperature of -18°c or lower in order to maintain quality. Usually, frozen food will display best before dates rather than use-by dates. This is because bacteria are unable to grow at temperatures -18°c and lower. Frozen food packaging will usually display star ratings and recommended storage times depending on the star rating, this should then be compared with your freezer’s star rating(s) to determine how long you can store the frozen food for.

Labelling prepacked food

Certain foods such as meat products, bread, honey etc. are restricted by product-specific regulations. You can learn more about these regulations on the government website. It is a legal requirement for the following information to appear on prepacked food labels and packaging:

– Name of food
– Ingredients list
– Allergen information
– Quantitative declaration of ingredients (QUID)
– Net quantity
– Storage conditions and date labelling
– Name and address of manufacturer
– Country of origin or place of provenance
– Preparation instructions
– Nutritional declaration

Additional labelling requirements

You must also state if your products contain sweeteners or sugars, aspartame and colourings, liquorice, caffeine or polyols.

Labelling non-prepacked food

Non-prepacked food needs less label information than prepacked food however must still be labelled with the following:

– Food name
– Allergen information
– Quantitative declaration of ingredients (QUID)

In the case of irradiated food, one of the following declarations must be displayed close to the food name:

– ‘Irradiated’
– ‘Treated with ionising radiation’

Compulsory food information must be easy to read, be clearly legible and not be concealed, hidden or detracted from.

It’s imperative that food is stored and labelled correctly according to its category in order to maintain a high standard of food safety within your business. Equipment such as food grade container trucks and stacking bins can help ensure that your food is stored as safely as possible. For more details about how best to label your food as well as exceptions and specific regulations, visit