Those who know nothing of the catering industry might assume that catering refrigeration is simply a question of having a fridge in the kitchen and using it as you might at home. But there is more to catering refrigeration than simply keeping food chilled. Fridges can actually be extremely dangerous if not used correctly.
Keeping food chilled is not only essential, but it is a legal safety requirement. If you have a catering fridge that works as it should, the story doesn’t end there. One of the major causes of food poisoning in restaurants comes from cross-contamination in fridges. This is when bacteria migrate from raw food onto cooked food. If raw meat juices drip onto food in a lower part of the fridge, those foods are contaminated, and potentially hazardous. If a kitchen finds that they are having to compromise food safety when storing food, it is a sign that they need a new refrigerator. Ideally, a kitchen should have more than one refrigerator, so that raw meat and poultry, and ready-to-eat food can be stored separately. A meat and poultry fridge is often used for eggs, fish and unwashed vegetables and fruit, so that the space is fully utilized.
Lassana Bathily recently saved 15 people’s lives by locking them in the walk in chiller room of a Paris grocery, when it came under terrorist attack. By switching off the unit and locking them in, he became an overnight hero. So much for chiller units as a place of safety. But whilst a catering fridge may not immediately strike you as a piece of equipment that could pose a risk to life, they can and do. Walk in cooler rooms, which provide large areas of storage space, are often found in supermarkets, large institutions and factories. It is essential that proper safety measures be used with these units, in order to minimise the risk of people becoming trapped inside them. Some catering companies now fit an alarm to their chiller rooms so that the alarm can be raised. Deaths of those trapped in chiller rooms from hypothermia are not unknown.
Regular Maintenance Maintaining a catering refrigeration unit is a key part of fridge safety. Accurate thermostats are essential, since without an accurate reading food safety is compromised. It is important to check seals and doors regularly, and replace damaged parts, as cold air escaping through damaged seals can lead to a rise in internal temperature. Even a few degrees increase in temperature can affect food safety, so accurate readings are essential.