Industry Best Practices for Food-Grade Storage

The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act requires any warehouse or facility in the United States that manufactures, processes, packs, or holds food for human consumption must register with the Secretary of Health and Human Services. Furthermore, thanks to the passage of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) in 2011, the FDA has the authority to proactively address conditions that could lead to the spread of foodborne illnesses, rather than just reacting to illnesses that have already begun to spread.

What this all means is that maintaining safe and sanitary storage conditions for food products is essential for any warehousing company that may take in these kinds of products, whether as the main commodity or on a temporary basis. Adhering to federal mandates and industry best practices for food-grade storage should be a high priority for any business that handles food-based products.

Legal Requirements for Food-Grade Storage

The FDA’s expects businesses to proactively ensure food safety within their facilities, which entails setting out an action plan on paper and ensuring its implementation on the warehouse floor. Additionally, warehouses that handle food must provide every worker in the facility with thorough training regarding food safety procedures and ensure they have enough hands-on experience to effectively fulfill safety requirements.

Following the passage of the FSMA, the FDA also placed extra emphasis on minimizing the risk of allergen cross-contamination. It is generally good practice for companies in the warehousing and supply chain industry dealing with food storage to ensure their facilities have proper ventilation, establish separate storage locations for products and ingredients with allergens, invest in machinery that can be disassembled completely or have all components accessible for cleaning, and establishing intra-facility cleaning protocols and sorting systems to prevent cross-contamination.

Finally, all warehouses and distributors registered in accordance with 21 United States Code §350d must create and maintain a Food Safety Plan. This plan must include a Hazard Analysis for the facility and/or products in question, and it must also list various controls for preventative measures, cooking processes, allergens, sanitation, recalls, supply chain management, and oversight.

Additional Tips for Sanitary Food Storage

Understanding the requirements set by the FDA and associated pieces of federal legislation is just the first step to ensuring safe food storage practices within a warehouse. There are various ways to go about fulfilling those requirements, some of which are effective enough to qualify as industry-wide best practices for food-grade storage.

For example, it is important, when selecting containers for storing food, to ensure that those containers are made of food-safe materials. Certain types of plastics and other materials commonly used for long-term storage containers will break down during sanitizing, potentially leading to contamination of any food items stored inside them. Food-safe glass, strong recycled plastics, and disposable, low-density or high-density polyethylene bags are generally the most dependable and safe options for storing food.

Additionally, it is worth considering what areas of a storage facility may have more or less light exposure and air circulation, as well as examining the facility itself during construction or maintenance to ensure there are no problems with roof leaks, rodent infestations, standing water, or chemical storage areas near food storage areas. An experienced 3PL provider like Brown West Logistics can offer further guidance about safe food-grade storage and provide irreplaceable assistance when it comes to meeting federal regulations and maximizing profitability.

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