Using a FIFO Food Storage System

July 19, 2017
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Many jobs involve handling high quantities of food – such as catering, retail, or manufacturing. Staff who work for these types of businesses should be able to properly rotate stock to help boost workplace efficiency and ensure food safety, which is why using a FIFO storage system is so beneficial.

What is a FIFO Food Storage System?

FIFO stands for First-In First-Out. It is a stock rotation system used for food storage. You put items with the soonest best before or use-by dates at the front and place items with the furthest dates at the back. By using a FIFO food storage system, you ensure that food with the nearest best before or use-by dates are used or sold first. FIFO maximises freshness and minimises waste.

FIFO food storage system

The FIFO Procedure

Using a FIFO food storage system is simple and efficient, and ensures staff know exactly what is going in and out at all times. It ensures older products are used or bought before newer ones, which helps minimise costly wastage.

The FIFO procedure follows 5 simple steps:

  1. Locate products with the soonest best before or use-by dates.
  2. Remove items that are past these dates or are damaged.
  3. Place items with the soonest dates at the front.
  4. Stock new items behind the front stock; those with the latest dates should be at the back.
  5. Use/sell stock at the front first.

Remember to label food that doesn’t have dates, for example if you decant food from its original packaging into another container. This way, chefs will be able to tell at a glance what should be used first.

FIFO is a continuous process. When new stock comes in, always use the FIFO procedure to fill shelves or fridges so food can be sold or used before it expires. Furthermore, be sure to stock refrigerated and frozen goods before room temperature items.

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FIFO Checklist

Proper stock rotation ensures that all food is sold or used before its expiration, and can even boost the workflow of your team. To work efficiently, FIFO needs to be followed and used by everyone in the workplace.

To help people keep FIFO at the front of their minds, display a checklist near areas with high stock rotation and where staff will see it every day – such as next to food cabinets and fridges or even in the staff room. The checklist should cover the 5 steps of FIFO (as listed in the above section) and other tips to remember when carrying out FIFO.

You can download and print our example FIFO checklist below.

Example FIFO tips:

    • Check products for damage or deterioration.
    • If a product isn’t put out, make a note of why.
    • Make sure goods are faced up.
    • Don’t overload refrigerators.
    • Label decanted food with a best before or use-by date.

stock rotation FIFO

Even just one person neglecting to follow FIFO will disrupt everyone’s workflow and negatively affect customers’ perception of the business.

Case Study

In a high-end UK supermarket, a customer discovered a yoghurt that was two years past its expiration date at the back of a refrigerator unit. Staff within the fresh produce department had been neglecting the FIFO food storage system.

The customer was appalled by the lack of stock rotation and immediately complained to staff.

Benefits of FIFO Food Storage

It’s easy to forget why a process as simple as FIFO is important. But it’s necessary for maintaining a high standard of food hygiene and financial security.

stock rotation FIFO food storage

The benefits of FIFO include:

  • Reduced wastage – your business will be more eco-friendly and waste less money.
  • Safer food storage – FIFO ensures better food hygiene standards.
  • Helps comply with HACCP – and therefore with food safety law.
  • Customer satisfaction – food is easier to navigate and always good quality.
  • Easier to reduce products near their end-date – therefore more sales and less waste.
  • Efficient workflow – particularly in commercial kitchens; chefs can locate food with ease.

These qualities are the foundation upon which a successful food business is built and run, so make sure you always follow FIFO to help your workplace achieve them.

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