Food safety

What to know about displaying food on ice?

Low-temperature storage prolongs the safety and good quality of food products. You can use this method to your ...

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Low-temperature storage prolongs the safety and good quality of food products. You can use this method to your advantage in more ways than one.

  • Displaying food on ice allows food businesses to safely present their fresh products to consumers.
  • The surrounding temperature of foods displayed on the ice must be consistently monitored to ensure the safety of foods.
  • FoodDocs offers a digital Food Safety Management System that can intuitively help food handlers remember to monitor food storage temperatures and other safety tasks.

Not all foods are best served when hot or warm. Some foods, such as salads or sushi, are more appealing when served chilled or cold. In addition, some raw materials, such as raw fish and different types of seafood, are often displayed on ice when on sale. This display type allows consumers to see the food up close and inspect the raw materials. Low-temperature storage can be an effective way to display foods while keeping their freshness and safety control. What food handlers need to know precisely is, "how cold does a salad bar or refrigerator have to be to keep food safe?"

Foods displayed on ice are exposed to several risks of food contamination. The preservation method of subjecting foods to low temperatures can help reduce these risks and allow customers to enjoy chilled foods or fresh raw ingredients at any time.

In this article, we teach you the dos and don'ts of displaying food on ice, how to ensure food safety for this type of display, and how to do it in the fastest and cheapest way using digital food safety management software.



How to display food on ice?

When you display food on ice, the food must be at least 41°F (5°C) or below to remain safe and fresh. The effectiveness of low-temperature storage lies in the precision of maintaining the ideal food safety temperature.

Low-temperature or cold storage extends the freshness of foods. That includes both safety and quality aspects. Some foods are purposefully displayed on ice to allow inspection. During this storage, foods are in containers and are surrounded by ice. The storage area temperature is then consistently controlled.

This method acts similar to refrigeration but with an open system. It is often done on salad bars to prevent vegetables and fruit from losing their freshness and for fish and seafood.

Such a principle is used for refrigeration and freezing inside units used to cool foods. Refrigeration runs at 41°F (5°C) or below. At this temperature, the biological functions of the food, as well as any potentially present foodborne bacteria, are slowed down. A cold environment for bacteria can stop their harmful processes.

On the other hand, the freezer temperature works at 0° F (-18° C). Freezing completely stops the growth of foodborne bacteria and other pathogens. In fact, it can sometimes injure dangerous bacteria and lower amounts of bacteria. Despite this, freezing food is not a kill step for pathogens. Frozen food has a longer shelf life but can still spoil once thawed.

Use our Proper Food Storage Chart to identify how refrigeration and freezing affect the shelf-life of foods.


displaying fish on ice


Advantages of displaying food on ice

Displaying food on ice is a common food safety practice for restaurants, retail food stores, and other food establishments that serve fresh foods. Some products that can be displayed on ice include beverages, salads, desserts, and even deli or raw meat.

Restaurants and other food businesses display food on ice for better presentation and allow customers to see what they buy. This method is a great strategy to show what your business offers and for serving fresh and vibrant, cold food.

Below are three main advantages of displaying food on ice:

  • Effective food safety control. Using ice for displaying food means that the food will not stay in the food temperature danger zone, which is 40°F to 140°F (5°C to 60°C). Below the temp danger zone, foods can effectively stay safe for consumption as bacterial growth is controlled. 
  • Cost-efficient. Displaying food on ice can be cheap and manageable for restaurants. Ice is a very cheap material, and it can be easily transported anywhere. Unlike having an open refrigerator, ice and the displayed food can be moved around the service area and easily changed without worrying about electricity costs.
  • Preserve quality. As displaying foods on ice preserves safety from harmful germs, it also preserves quality. Refrigerated storage also slows down other biological activities in foods, such as enzymatic browning in fresh fruits and raw vegetables. Refrigerated food can remain bright and vibrant for a salad when the proper temperature is maintained.

The key to achieving these advantages of displaying foods on ice is consistent monitoring of the temperature.When food handlers regularly monitor the storage temperature, they can easily apply corrective actions in case of non-compliance. This is the main cold food storage rule.

Temperature monitoring is part of a food safety management system, and forgetting to do it may cost you the safety of your food and can make people sick. Inconsistent monitoring of storage temperature can lead to producing harmful foods.

Need a smart solution? At FoodDocs, our digital Food Safety Management System can help you never miss monitoring your storage temperature and fulfill all other food safety tasks on time. With our digital solution, you can get digital monitoring forms with a smart notification system that will remind you whenever it's time to check your ice display temperature. 

Find out more about our digital solution made by food service professionals below.


FoodDocs food safety system-1


What is a food display refrigerator?

A food display refrigerator is a type of cooling unit used in restaurants that features an open-view facade for displaying foods. This type of cooling equipment is often composed of multiple shelves that can hold large amounts of food and a temperature regulator to cool food.

This equipment is often used in cafes and deli meat stores for displaying foods that require temperature regulation. A food display refrigerator has open-back access to allow food handlers to retrieve food. It is often used on buffet lines in restaurants.

Depending on the intended food to be displayed, a food display refrigerator can come with attachments that allow the holding of ice and containers for food. This equipment also has a more regulated temperature function than simply displaying foods on ice.

Other food manufacturers and food retailers use a variant of this equipment, which is a countertop refrigerated display case. This variant can fit countertop tables and can be used for smaller displays.


Which food can be displayed on ice?

Kinds of foods such as salad ingredients, including fresh produce vegetables and fruits, fish, seafood, and desserts, are often displayed on ice. Some of these food items can be set directly on ice, such as in the case of raw fish or prepared dishes, including sashimi and sushi, which are types of ready-to-eat food. Other foods displayed on ice are placed in a shallow container and submerged to the level of the ice.

Restaurants offer food displayed on ice as a method of widening the menu variety. A refrigerated display can allow a food business to offer fresh salads with a very wide selection. Additionally, this method is a great alternative for serving foods such as sushi and other raw meats without preparing them on the spot.

salad bar food safety



Salad bar temperature

As a rule, salad bar temperatures in buffet tables must be maintained at 41°F (5°C) or below. This food temperature range is effective in prolonging the safety of any high-risk food in salad bars.

High-risk TCS foods (time/temperature control for safety), when left within the temperature danger zone, can spoil as fast as 2 hours and become hazardous foods. This temperature range is optimal for the growth of harmful bacteria and spoilage of foods. When foods are stored at refrigerated temperatures during display, they can stay fresh for extended periods. Your team can be sure that the risk of causing food poisoning or a foodborne outbreak is limited.

Maintenance of what temperature should a salad bar be kept at can be achieved using a properly calibrated thermostat or a food thermometer. Food handlers must consistently monitor the temperature of the salad bar to ensure food safety. 

Record information for your kitchen thermometer calibration using our Thermometer Calibration Log.



What to keep in mind if food is displayed on ice?

While low-temperature storage is an effective method of keeping foods safe, it can still be contaminated. Precautions and proper food handling must be practiced to make the operation effective for your products.

When storing products and keeping food cold, it is important to follow these few steps:

  1. The ice you use must be clean. If in case you make your own ice, the cold water you use must not become a common source of contamination. You must have a clean water system. If you source out your ice, make sure that the reputable source provides a complete certificate of analysis as proof that the ice is clean. You can treat the ice with citric acid or the tap water used to make the ice with reverse osmosis. 

  2. Put salt on the ice to prevent excessive melting. This is a traditional method to make the ice last longer. Putting salt on ice decreases the freezing point of water and makes ice colder. This method will prevent the ice from melting fast and retain safe temperatures longer. Although, putting salt on ice can only be used to display food on containers as the salt may contaminate the food.

  3. The food must be prepared in clean conditions. Even if the refrigeration technique when you display food on ice is effective, food spoilage can still happen if the foods are prepared in poor conditions. Proper food preparation must be followed if you intend to display foods on ice. This involves performing a proper cooking method with adequate hours of cooking for some foods and regularly cleaning the kitchen surfaces used for preparation.

  4. The food must be surrounded with ice. The point of displaying foods on ice is to get the safe temperature of the food to decrease to 41°F (5°C) or to allow the internal temperature and the surrounding temperature to become equal. To do this task, food must either be covered in ice or at the same level as the ice. In addition, placing foods on top of the ice promotes drip loss, which can affect the quality of foods.

  5. For certain foods, place them in a container before putting them on ice. Some cold-held foods, such as dairy products and leafy vegetables, are not fit to be placed directly on ice. As such, you can place them in a submerged container, such as a disposable chafing dish or food pan, surrounded by ice.

  6. Evenly distribute food on ice. Cross-contamination of food may occur if you put foods too close to each other. Group foods according to category and maintain an even amount of space between each food to prevent transferring bacteria from food contact and keep customers safe.

  7. Regularly check the temperature of your display cabinet. This operation must be consistently done throughout service. Temperature maintenance is crucial when it comes to perishable foods and raw foods. Record the temperature reading as proof that the foods are properly maintained and for food service operators to be able to apply any corrective action in case of non-compliance.

Follow these tips when displaying foods on ice for better service and to prevent experiencing any food code violations. Make these tips a part of your daily checklist or incorporate them into your food safety management system. You can do that when you use our versatile and customizable digital Food Safety Management System at FoodDocs. Using artificial intelligence, our system can automatically generate the most significant monitoring logs and checklists for your food manufacturing operations. Food business employees can further customize these documents to fit your business even more.


How to ensure the right temperature for the food display?

Like any other method of food storage, controlled temperature storage, such as in displaying foods on ice, requires intensive and consistent monitoring to become effective. If food handlers forget to monitor the display temperature and foods are exposed to ambient temperature for extended periods of time, food safety can be critically compromised by rapid bacteria growth.

A pen-and-paper food safety management system can be very thorough, but food service operators can still forget to measure the temperature of your display. It is human nature sometimes to forget tasks, which can damage your business.

What you need is the aid of an intuitive solution. At FoodDocs, we can provide you with a digital solution that covers all food safety tasks and can even help food handlers create a more efficient food safety system for everyday compliance.

Using our digital Food Safety Management System, you can get the following benefits for the improvement of your operation's maximum efficiency:

  • Get automatically generated digital monitoring logs and checklists based on your operations. Some of the digital logs that our system can provide you with include the following:
    • Freezer/ Fridge temperature log

Fridge temperature log on FoodDocs

Fridge temperature log in FoodDocs' app


    • Calibration log
    • Equipment maintenance log
  • The monitoring logs come with detailed instructions on performing and monitoring the tasks accordingly. These instructions can help you ensure that the tasks are done correctly and in compliance with food safety rules.

  • In addition to detailed instructions, the monitoring logs are also equipped with an auto-fill solution that automatically prefills the logs for you. The inserted information is based on previously logged data. This feature can help you increase the accuracy of your logs and save time. You would only need to verify the logged information.

  • The best solution to never forget to monitor the display temperature is our intuitive notification system. Our smart notification system sends food safety messages to food workers whenever the task is near. With this feature, you can ensure that all food safety tasks are done on time.

In addition to digital solutions for food workers, our digital FSMS can also help managers improve the efficiency of overseeing the entire operation system:

  • You can get a real-time dashboard that gives you an overview of your entire food operation. Save 20% of your time from supervising when you use this dashboard. You can quickly identify areas that need more attention and resolve problems on time.

  • Store and organize all digital food safety documents in one place with dedicated cloud storage for your team.

Switching to our digital platform only requires a total of 15 minutes of your time. Yes, you read that correctly. Setting up our digital Food Safety Management System can be done at any time of the day and can be immediately implemented afterward.

All you need to do is answer a few basic questions about your operations. Our system will automatically generate a complete digital FSMS for you using artificial intelligence and a machine-learning program. You can further customize sections to fit your operations or improve them after a food safety inspection from your health department.

When you switch to a digital platform, there is no more need to print out your monitoring logs and other food safety documents. This platform is also your first step to becoming a more sustainable food company.

Start your food safety compliance journey with us at FoodDocs for free by using our free 14-day trial now!



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