Food safety

What does FIFO stand for in food?

The First-In, First-Out method is an inventory management system that prioritizes using older batches of materials ...

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  • The First-In, First-Out method is an inventory management system that prioritizes using older batches of materials before moving past their use-by dates.
  • The FIFO system helps ensure that the foods used in making dishes and other products are safe and will not cause any foodborne problems.
  • A food business can optimize its food ingredients and create a stable inventory system by implementing FIFO.

Food storage is a vital component of every food business in its approach to satisfying food hygiene standards. Properly storing foods is a significant key to optimizing your resources and maximizing profit. Whether raw materials or ready-to-eat foods, storage can help every food business maintain and ensure food safety. Food handlers must first become well-versed with specific systems used in food storage to become more efficient.

One of the most well-known food storage systems is the First-In, First-Out food storage system or FIFO for food. This storage system was designed for food businesses only to serve customers the freshest and safest dishes. As part of every food handler's food safety training, they must be acquainted with what FIFO means and how to implement it properly.

Proper food storage does not only ensure food safety. In terms of food security, storage of foods increases the stability of market supply, thereby the food prices. When stability is achieved in the food industry, supply becomes sustainable. Both safety and sustainability help together in ensuring that every consumer will be able to receive foods without the risk of getting sick from foodborne illnesses. 

As such, food storage is an essential undertaking for every food business. A comprehensive food storage management system such as FIFO can lead your food business to more efficient food service and protect your consumers from foodborne illnesses.

In this article, we will be discussing the most critical information regarding FIFO and how this system can help you improve your operations.



What does FIFO stand for in food?

FIFO means First-In, First-Out and is a food storage system designed to utilize foods that have entered your kitchen earliest. The term FIFO is a smart acronym to allow food handlers to remember the storage system by memory. FIFO refers to the rotation system of any finished product and raw materials in a food storage system of a restaurant.

The first term, First-In, pertains to the product that has stayed the longest inside the storage system. Products that have been delivered and accounted for in a kitchen inventory are labeled and arranged according to the chronology of entering the kitchen. 


fifo for food


On the other hand, the second part of the system is First-Out, and it refers to the products that need to be immediately used for the next dish to be prepared. 


What does First-In, First-Out food mean?

The FIFO system is a storage organization program for food businesses. It was built to ensure that all ingredients and ready-to-eat foods served in the restaurant are fresh and safe from food spoilage. The system also ensures that all ingredients are used before going bad, thereby reducing food waste.

FIFO focuses more on foods' shelf life and ensures that all ingredients are optimized before they even go bad and become unusable. The process also promotes a faster system for locating which foods to use next and ensures that there will be no accidents in terms of using expired ingredients.

Food storage systems such as FIFO are most useful in businesses that deal with common food items and perishable food items such as time/temperature control for safety or TCS food. These inventory items require a stricter monitoring process to ensure food safety. A comprehensive food safety management system would combine the principles of FIFO and monitoring procedures to prolong the shelf life and maximize the potential use of food ingredients.

fifo for food shelf life


What does FIFO refer to?

FIFO refers to the rotation system of products in a food business. It involves the process of date marking ready-to-eat and perishable foods to guide food handlers. By principle, the foods with the earliest date of expiration or use-by date must go in front or at the top of the storage system. This step allows easy access to the foods by the food handler.

FIFO also involves the process of grouping similar products together which makes it easier for food handlers to spot any irregular behavior of foods such as spoilage. The process promotes better organization of kitchen ingredients and raw materials which is most useful in controlling food safety and preventing issues such as cross-contamination that can induce foodborne illness.


What does FIFO refer to for food handlers?

FIFO for food handlers refers to a powerful tool and is a significant approach to food hygiene in terms of managing food stocks efficiently. For food workers, the FIFO system is the process of rotating food balances in inventory in favor of using earlier produced materials. It is a method that can help food handlers reduce the chances of food spoilage that can generate unnecessary waste.

In implementing FIFO, food handlers are responsible for recording important information for food storage and monitoring the actual flow of every food product or inventory tracing. They are also required to mark products with the date, when necessary, to ensure that the ingredients being used are still safe and wholesome.


Why is FIFO important?

Proper food storage is part of the four major food safety practices always highlighted in the food industry. When food storage is implemented correctly, the quality, nutrition, and safety of foods are preserved for superior food service. In terms of food safety, proper storage includes the proper arrangement of products such as in a fridge, containers used, the grouping of products, and keeping foods out of the temperature danger zone.

Problems such as cross-contamination can easily be prevented with proper food storage. Additionally, food storage systems such as FIFO help secure a healthy amount of stock in your inventory and improves the flow of ingredients into the kitchen and service area. The FIFO system can also help your team integrate other food safety systems such as food inventory tracking, accounting, and other back-of-the-house systems.


waiter checking food storage


What are the advantages of FIFO?

Specifically, FIFO offers several advantages in food storage more than just organization. It is a multi-faceted system that can affect other food service areas and improve the overall efficiency of your food business. FIFO does improve not only food safety but also the quality and the inventory accounting side of your food business.

  • Less food waste. One of the main advantages of using the FIFO storage system is that it helps ensure no food goes to waste. This is assured by creating a system that trains food handlers to prioritize using foods with shorter shelf life or those registered earlier to your kitchen inventory. In using such a system, foods will be used even before they expire.
  • Cost-saving. When food ingredients are optimized, and no to minimal waste is generated due to expired and unused ingredients, your food business can save up on food costs. Additionally, using only the freshest ingredients can significantly reduce the risk of causing foodborne illnesses. The FIFO method can also help protect your food business from food safety complaints, leading to more significant problems such as lawsuits and loss of customer satisfaction and confidence. 
  • Food security and a more stable inventory. The FIFO method can help food businesses create a stable system in terms of stocks and handle ingredient cost fluctuations. Better management of food stocks can prolong their use and help your team withstand abrupt price increases. FIFO is also a vital tool when it comes to integrating with inventory costing methods.
  • More efficient workflow.  Using the FIFO system helps improve the kitchen workflow and flow of inventory. As part of the system company plan, foods are organized in groups such as TCS food, ready-to-eat food, highly perishable ones, and other categories. Additionally, the system requires food handlers to put products with the nearest expiration dates at places that are nearest within reach for easier access.
  • Always serve fresh foods. When your team implements the FIFO system on a constant basis, you can rest easy that all foods served in your food business are fresh and safe from contaminations. This advantage promotes the quality of your food products and can attract customers to dine in your food restaurant more frequently.
  • Better inventory management. The FIFO system includes proper documentation of foods and raw materials that enter your food business. This includes monitoring the number of batches and collective use-by dates as well as the number of products. The food storage system can help you track your inventory balance and determine when a particular raw material is almost out of stock and can signal food handlers to replenish ingredients. 
  • Compliance with food safety laws. The implementation of FIFO in your food business helps in ensuring that food safety laws and regulations in terms of food storage are always followed. Regulations such as proper organization of foods, disposal of expired ingredients, and hygienically handling of raw foods can be satisfied when using FIFO.


Disadvantages of FIFO

Despite the many advantages of using FIFO, early implementation stages can prove to be difficult for some. At this stage, food safety teams may find it hard to start in terms of monitoring, consistency, and expertise of the system. Specifically, the FIFO system can show disadvantages such as the following:

  • Can sometimes be time-consuming. The implementation of the FIFO system in the food business can consume a lot of your employees' time. Use-by dates must always be accurately recorded in addition to monitoring. This means that every product must be inspected prior to grouping. After which, every individual unit is stacked and organized based on expiration. Newly assigned food handlers may require a lot of time just to find and record every piece of information.
  • Risk of errors. The initial lack of a system when implementing FIFO can lead to a lot of errors. FIFO requires precision and accuracy. All food handlers must be oriented in using the system as mistakes can cause your team a lot of setbacks. For example, failure to properly record use-by dates can lead to products being forgotten and expired even before use. Additionally, improperly stacking foods can lead to the same problem and can even reduce productivity when food handlers need to remove all materials in front just to access foods at the back.
  • The system requires training. While the FIFO system is a simple and intuitive program, its implementation and consistent use must be properly communicated through a series of food safety training programs. Such training programs will include the significance of the system, how to use it, corrective actions involved and monitoring procedures.

The FIFO system is an integral part of a food safety management system (FSMS). It can help reduce the burden of managing your inventory and complying with food safety regulations. Despite this, the transition that it takes for implementation can become a challenge. You can help your food employees understand the system more and use an intuitive monitoring system by using our digital Food Safety Management System solution.

With our digital system, we can help you create smart notification programs that can improve the efficiency of your tracking system. Additionally, our system specializes in making food safety compliance an easy task. Get to experience smart notification features that send out push notifications to concerned food handlers. Use this feature to remind food handlers of products nearing their use-by dates and prevent food spoilage. Start your food safety compliance journey with us now and get a free, 14-day trial. 

smart notifications for food business

Smart notification alerts are sent to food handlers as a reminder


What does FIFO require?

The FIFO system requires food handlers to be well-acquainted with the system and identify its significance for more accurate implementation. The system is built on performing a few basic steps that must always be followed to achieve all the benefits of using FIFO.


FIFO checklist

The following are some of the major food safety steps required in implementing FIFO:

  • Record all food materials as part of the inventory
  • Group similar products alike in terms of category and use-by dates.
  • Monitor existing materials and remove all food products past their use-by dates.
  • Organize foods placing those with the soonest expiration dates at the nearest access.
  • Place newer items at the back.

In trying to make the FIFO system work, particular food safety precautions must also be applied. Remarks on the disposal and maintenance of expired foods must always be maintained for inspection purposes. This step also helps food handlers account for reasons why foods have gone past their use-by dates without being used and improve next operations. Additionally, the system promotes cautiousness in food handlers such as by highlighting the importance of food product inspection and labeling them with dates. 



What is the FIFO procedure?

The FIFO procedure is a very useful system that can help food establishments optimize food ingredients and gain maximum benefits and increase restaurant profit margin. It uses a system that prioritizes using foods with the soonest expiration or use-by dates to reduce the likelihood of food waste and spoilage that can lead to foodborne illnesses.

This food storage system is concerned with both the accounting section and food safety section of your food business. Under the FIFO system, the following procedures are highlighted and implemented:

  • Organize foods in groups. Organization in the context of FIFO involves grouping multiple products of the same category. It also includes grouping foods based on the storage conditions such as temperature and time. In implementing FIFO, food handlers must be aware of how to properly group foods based on shelf-life and storage requirements.
  • Always put older foods in front. The main FIFO principle is to put foods that have been produced or acquired earliest in the most accessible spot of the storage area which may either be the top-most shelf or in front of the bunch of foods.
  • Recognize expiration dates/ Mark foods accordingly. A very important factor in implementing FIFO is recording use-by dates or date marking foods that are loose or produced in-house. These dates are your guides for deciding which one to use or if raw materials are still safe for use. 

The mentioned three procedures make up the whole FIFO method. Although simple, food handlers must understand the importance of each procedure to accomplish FIFO implementation. The task of implementing the FIFO method does not stop on day 1. It must be consistently maintained to become effective and prevent any food safety and quality problems. 


How to apply the FIFO rule in the food business?

The FIFO method can be used in other industries aside from food businesses. Any business that can benefit from proper stock rotation can use the FIFO method for a better workflow. In the food industry, food handler awareness of the FIFO method is key to its success. 

Awareness and proper training must emphasize how to take dates and continuously monitor them until they move out of your food premises. The FIFO method starts by receiving your quality raw ingredients. At this point, food handlers must already work intensely to accurately record the required information and proceed to store foods properly, that is older ones in front, and the new stocks at the back.

The FIFO method can also help your team predict the next quantity of ingredient purchases by analyzing the flow of inventory in the past cycles. Using the generated data, you can continuously improve your use of products and maximize and increase profit without having to face any food safety issues.


FoodDocs food safety system-1


What are FIFO examples?

The FIFO structure is perhaps the most famous storage and accounting method of inventory management. Although other systems such as the LIFO method (Last-in, First-Out), which is a reverse approach exist, the advantage of FIFO is still more appreciated in the food industry, especially in managing company stock. 

In understanding what is FIFO in cooking, a good example of using FIFO is in a restaurant setup. In such a food establishment. It is very normal to stock items in bulk to reduce the average cost of deliveries, transportation, and even the cost per unit of the food ingredients. As such, most food businesses build comprehensive inventory management systems to track the flow of food. These food ingredients may be of the same categories such as being very perishable, ready-to-eat, or raw ingredients. The process of procuring these products is a cycle and is done routinely.

Using the First-In, First-Out method, the items in inventory are regularly restocked even before they are completely consumed. Once new stocks arrive, the old batches may be forgotten. While it is very tempting to use newer, higher-quality ingredient stocks to achieve superior quality, the older batches that are still wholesome must first be used. This is why outsourcing is done on time to ensure that the remaining stock is still safe to be used.

To prevent mistakenly using newer stocks first, the manufacturing information of the newer batches is recorded and is used for organization. All new food ingredients are placed at the back of the storage area, such as a refrigerator, whereas the older ones are placed in front where food handlers can easily see and use them. At this point, the organization of foods in a refrigerator must still follow minimum food safety standards for avoiding cross-contamination. This is also the case for additional inventory purchases. When a restaurant business makes emergency purchases, older stocks are still placed in front.

With a food inventory management such as the FIFO system, food wastage is reduced by ensuring that the older stocks are used without the risk of food poisoning. 



Food safety storage compliance with FoodDocs

Food storage involves several different principles of food safety. Proper management must always be monitored and strictly implemented to maintain the freshness of foods being served as well as the safety of food. Factors such as temperature maintenance and maximum storage time are vital in keeping food safe. Storage can either be in room temperature conditions for shelf-stable foods, refrigerated for highly-perishable items, or even hot held for newly processed food products.

The problem for food handlers in managing food storage is that there are a lot of food items that need to be monitored, in addition to the several different conditions of storage. Every operation must be coupled with a specific monitoring procedure and form to ensure that they are being properly managed. As a food business manager, you have to remember that food storage is just one of the major food safety practices that must be monitored.

To help every food business reduce the burden of monitoring food safety operations and maintain food safety compliance, our team at FoodDocs has come up with a digital Food Safety Management System powered by artificial intelligence. With very simple steps such as answering a few basic questions, you can get a comprehensive digital FSMS in just an average of 15 minutes.

While there are several inventory stock management software programs available, our system can act as complementary software for monitoring food safety. With easy integration features, our digital FSMS can help your food safety team control food storage conditions.


Specifically, our system can automatically generate a digital FSMS with the following features:

  • Digital monitoring forms. These monitoring forms are automatically built specifically based on your operation's nature. They are equipped with an auto-fill feature that relieves the repetitive process of inputting information on forms from your food employees and saves their time. The information inserted into the monitoring forms is based on previous data entries and would only require to be verified.
  • Smart notification system. Using our mobile application, our system sends out notifications to your food workers when a food safety task is due to be done. This notification feature can also be used to remind your employees of any use-by date for specific stocks and prevent them from going bad.
  • A real-time dashboard. Use our system's food safety dashboard that reflects your operation's progress and can give you an overview of your daily food safety practices. You can easily identify areas that need improvement using the real-time dashboard and save at least 20% of your time from supervising. 
  • Cloud storage. When you sign up with us, you automatically get cloud storage where you can store and organize your digital documents. Save up on space and reduce using paper for a more sustainable food business using our digital FSMS.


In addition to these features, our system can also accommodate improvements by making the major components of your digital FSMS customizable. The edit feature can also be used to create new monitoring forms that are unique to your food business.

While our product features a traceability system, our highlighted feature is in helping you create digital and automatic checklists and monitoring forms to control and ensure that FIFO is always followed. Our traceability system can be used to track and alert your employees on the maximum shelf-life of your products.

giphy tracing

FoodDocs traceability feature

Food storage management is undeniably tied to the success of food safety compliance. Using our system, you can effortlessly create a digital FSMS that is built specifically on your food operations without spending too much time on conceptualization and revisions. You do not even have to be a food safety expert to use our digital solution.

Whether you are a newcomer to the food industry or a long-time player who is unsure in switching to a digital platform, our system can make your life easier. At FoodDocs, one of our main objectives is to make food safety compliance an easy job for everyone. We've taken out the tedious process of building every monitoring form from scratch and we've even improved it by making functions automated.

Start your food safety journey with us now and experience every feature that our system has to offer for free! Use our 14-day trial program and explore how our system can help you. 



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