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Guide to Safe Food Storage


Food that not properly stored can support bacterial growth and undergoes chemical changes. Correct and proper storage is essential :

  • To ensure it is safe to be consumed
  • To maintain the appearance and taste
  • The preserve the wholesomeness of the food
  • The preserve the nutritional quality of the food

Food should be stored in correct temperature and clean environment. The food should be consumed before it’s shelf-life expires.

Key fact

  • Correct and proper storage helps to minimize food spoilage, contamination and wastage.
  • Cooked food can become contaminated even through the minimal contact with raw food.
  • Refrigeration is the most convenient way for short term storage of food
  • Do not wash green vegetables before refrigeration.
  • Food for infants should be freshly prepared and the leftovers. (It should not be stored at all).
  • Read the label on the package/container for storage instruction before and after opening.

How to store food properly?

There are several ways in which food can be stored:

  • Refrigeration-chill and deep freeze
  • Non refrigerated storage (stored at room temperatures)

Selection storage depends on the type of food.

How are foods stored in the refrigerator?

Rules for proper storage in refrigerator in chill section :

You should :

  • Keep all cooked food in covered container, sealed plastic bags, wrapped in plastic film or aluminum foil (Why? This will minimize dehydration, contamination, odor ,dripping or spillages)
  • Store cooked food in a separate compartment and it has to be higher level from raw food (Why? Raw food such as raw meat and vegetables normally contain dangerous bacteria which will can contaminate the cooked food and it can cause food spoilage and food poisoning)
  • Raw food should be stored in a tray / container in the lower part of refrigerator to prevent it from spillage or dripping. (Why? Dripping from raw food will contaminate cooked food)
  • Store fresh eggs and product containing eggs in chiller compartment (Why? The lower temperature can retard bacterial growth)
  • Wrap leafy vegetables in plastic film with holes (Why? This will reduce loss of water and to allow air movement)
  • Place fruits and vegetables in a chiller compartment (Why? It can be prevent spoilage due to frost)
  • Clean and dry all food containers before refrigeration.

You should not :

  • Refrigerate opened canned food in the original can. Transfer the contents of canned food to a glass or plastic container before refrigeration (Why? If it is left in the can, the content will react with the tinplate once they are exposed to air)
  • Put hot food in refrigerator (Why? Hot food must be cooled before refrigeration to prevent increase of humidity and internal temperature of refrigerator)
  • Overcrowd the refrigerator shelves (Why? This is to let cool air circulate freely around the food)
  • Keep fish, meat, and poultry in the chiller for more than 3 days (Why? High protein and moisture contents of these food will encourage the bacterial growth and spoilage)
  • Keep food or left over more than 5 days

What is deep freeze storage?

Storage at temperature that keep food in a frozen condition (freezer). Food stored in the freezer can last for a longer time.

Rules for storing food in freezer

You should :

  • Keep meat, poultry or fish in air tight container, air tight plastic bag or wrap in polyethylene film (Why? To prevent loss of moisture, and to avoid tainting other foods with its smell)
  • Cut up poultry and meat into smaller portion (Why? Small portion is easily frozen within a short time)
  • Wrap food in freezer bags or in plastic film before placing it in the freezer
  • Clean raw fish, meat or poultry properly before placing it in the freezer

You should not :

  • Place raw fruits or vegetables in the freezer (Why? Freezing temperature will damage the tissues of fruits and vegetables)
  • Stuff the poultry before freezing. Stuff poultry just before cooking (Why? Your home freezer is not cold enough to freeze stuffed poultry thoroughly within short time)
  • Overload your freezer. (Why? To allow cold air to circulate around the food)
  • Freeze canned food (Why? Freezing temperature leads to expansion and damages the can which can cause leaking)

How to store food at room temperature? (Non-refrigerator storage)

Rules of storing food at room temperature

You should :

  • Store powdered and granular food such as flour, sugar, tea, rice in metal bins , glass or plastic container with close-fitting (Why? To prevent contamination by insect or rodents)
  • Store canned food in a cool place
  • Store root vegetables such as potatoes, onion in a cool dry place away from sunlight to prevent sprouting
  • Store sterilized or UHT milk in a cool place. Store in the refrigerator once it is opened and consumed within a week
  • Store bread at normal room temperature in clean, well ventilated and dry container.
  • Store flour in its original bag on a cool, dry airy shelf. Do not mix a new stock of flour to the old one.
  • Keep unripe fruits and banana at room temperature
  • Keep food away from wall and pipeline.
  • Keep cabinet for storing food clean, dry and airy

You should not :

  • Store food together with chemical, medicine or poison like pesticide, rat poison, detergent and soap
  • Keep cooked food for more than four hours at room temperature


Last reviewed : 19 April 2012
Writer : Dr. A’aisah bt. Senin
Norrani bt. Eksan
Reviewer : Prof. Dr. Norimah A. Karim