Rightly so, food storage is a business that requires a lot of caution and regulation in order to keep your products—and customers—safe.

If you work in food storage, you’re surely aware of the importance in preventing cross-contamination and cross-contact between food products, particularly involving common allergens such as peanuts and seafood, but you may not be too sure how best to go about it.

Preventing food contamination and allergens can be a job in and of itself, but if you know where to start and what to look out for the rest will fall into place easier than you expect:

 

Understand the food products you stock. Different types of foods will have different allergens, different storage needs, and different ways of preventing contamination, and understanding these needs is going to be crucial for preventing health or allergy issues. Take careful stock of everything your warehouse stores and look into ways they can all affect each other—do you have seafood that needs to be frozen or kept in cold storage? What about those sunflower seeds, should they be touching anything else? Understanding your inventory is a great first step in preventing allergy or contamination.

 

Educate your staff on the difference between contamination and contact. A lot of places make the mistake of using “cross-contamination” and “cross-contact” interchangeably, and while the impact on your product and customers can be similar, the differences can make a big difference in how you store and handle product. Cross-contamination is the transfer of biological contaminants such as bacteria and viruses that naturally occur in food that can be harmful to other food types. Cross-contact, on the other hand, occurs when an allergen is accidentally transferred between two foods of different types, even if the foods themselves are still fresh and unspoiled. These both require different handling (and preparation, depending on the needs of your warehouse) and knowing the difference, and what foods require what, is critical.

 

Use the proper storage for all food types. Food storage, especially in regards to allergens, requires careful storage and the proper use of materials. Above and beyond the use of germ-free NSF shelving and restaurant shelving to prevent the spread of germs, you need to make sure all different food products are specially separated and stored as per federal and manufacturer guidelines to prevent further spread of allergens as well as maintaining freshness. Double-check the temperature guidelines for all food products whether or not they need cold storage, prevent exposure to sunlight and open air, and follow all rotation/disposal guidelines for products that need to be gotten rid of after their expiration date.

 

Make sure everything is disposed of correctly. Finally, food contamination prevention even comes down to proper disposal. Many foods can still be an allergen hazard beyond their expiration date, and they need to be handled and disposed of far away from the rest of the inventory. Make sure to keep all allergenic products in their own dumpsters so there’s no risk of them touching other products, and make sure your staff is equipped with proper handling materials (particularly disposable/washable gloves) to stop the allergens from coming back into the warehouse with them.

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