Storing food safely

It is very important to store food properly to keep it safe, to protect it from harmful bacteria, chemicals and objects falling into food. You’ll need to store different types of food by storing in:

  • containers you keep in cupboards or on shelves – such as pasta, rice and flour
  • a fridge
  • a freezer


Chilling food properly helps to stop harmful bacteria from growing. Some foods need to be kept chilled to keep them safe, for example:

  • food with a use-by date
  • cooked dishes
  • other ready-to-eat food such as prepared salads and desserts

It is very important not to leave these types of food standing around at room temperature. Make sure that you:

  • follow storage instructions
  • put food that needs to be chilled in the fridge straight away
  • cool cooked food as quickly as possible and then put it in the fridge
  • keep chilled food out of the fridge for the shortest time possible during preparation
  • check regularly that your fridge and display units are cold enough

When you are serving or displaying cold foods, they can be kept outside the fridge for up to four hours. If any food is left after this time, you should either:

  • throw it away
  • put it back into the fridge

Your fridge temperature

Cold food must be kept at 8˚C or below. This is a legal requirement

In practice, it is recommended to set your fridge at 5˚C to make sure that food is kept cold enough. Check regularly that your fridge and any display units are cold enough.




It is important to take care when freezing food and to handle frozen food safely:

  • put frozen food in the freezer as soon as it is delivered
  • if you are freezing fresh food, freeze it as soon as it has been delivered or prepared
  • divide food into smaller portions and put it in containers or freezer bags before freezing
  • if you freeze food that has a ‘use-by’ date to use later, make sure you freeze it before the use-by date is past – clearly note the date you are freezing it. You will also need to change the ‘use-by’ date to a ‘best before’ date


Ideally, you should defrost food in the fridge. Putting food in the fridge will keep it at a safe temperature while it is defrosting.

If you cannot defrost food in the fridge, you could put it in a container and then place it under cold running water. Raw meat and poultry, including large joints and whole birds, should not be defrosted under cold running water unless they are in a sealed container.

You could also defrost food in the microwave on the ‘defrost’ setting.

Food should be thoroughly defrosted before cooking unless the manufacturer’s instructions tell you to cook from frozen.