Food safety

Fish storage for food businesses - Where should you store raw fish in a refrigerator?

Fresh fish must be immediately cleaned and stored in cold temperatures at least 2 hours after purchasing. Raw fish must ...

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  • Fresh fish must be immediately cleaned and stored in cold temperatures at least 2 hours after purchasing.
  • Raw fish must be stored in a refrigerator with a temperature of 40°F (4°C) or lower or in a freezer with a temperature of 0°F (-18°C).
  • Refrigerated raw fish can last up to 2 days in refrigerated conditions, whereas it can last up to 3 months when frozen.

Fish is a very versatile protein and a popular restaurant or homemade meal option for customers on a diet. The key to using fish is that it has to stay fresh to be appetizing and safe at the same time. Food handlers cannot perform miracles and produce a fresh dish from a fish protein that has been in the refrigerator freezer for months.

This item may already have deteriorated with freezer burn or is not fit for any cooking process. Every fish recipe calls for a fresh and safe fish ingredient for cooking. In every food business, all food handlers must be aware of how to store fish in a freezer or fridge to keep it fresh and free from pathogenic microorganisms

At least 260,000 people from the US become infected with foodborne illnesses related to fish and seafood every year. To prevent this from occurring, food business owners must ensure that the fish they source is fresh and free from harmful biological contaminations as a food safety precaution.

Fish requires special handling guidelines and proper food safety practices as they are rich in natural microorganisms and are a great source of nutrition even for pathogens. They can easily spoil when stored in the wrong conditions and procedures. 

Read on as we describe how to prepare fish for refrigerator storage and how long can you keep fish in the fridge for every food business.

keep raw fish fresh in a food business


Why is correct raw fish storage important?

Fish is known for its delicate meat that can be cooked in several dishes. Despite this, fish, even when bought from the seafood market, can easily spoil when not acquired fresh and stored immediately in the proper conditions.

Fish is in direct contact with water, where most foodborne illnesses are transmitted. To prevent causing food poisoning among consumers, fish must be stored and cooked thoroughly to the correct internal temperature.

Harmful bacteria or enzymatic reactions can cause spoilage of fish. Both potential causes of spoilage in fish can be significantly controlled or even prevented when stored at a cold temperature. 

Raw fish is considered a highly perishable food and must be properly held to maintain safety and freshness. It can spoil fast even during transport. When you keep fish in the fridge, the cold temperature will significantly prevent spoilage. That is why controlled-temperature storage is always recommended when handling fish. 


Where should you store raw fish in a refrigerator?

In determining what shelf should raw fish be stored on, food handlers must store raw fish towards the bottom of the shelf with raw meat such as beef and pork. The storage shelf must be in between the ground poultry and the vegetables.

This fridge layout is based on the required heat processing of the foods stored in the refrigerator. The general idea is to place foods that require more extensive cooking at the bottom of the shelf and the ready-to-eat and prepared foods at the top.

This arrangement also prevents meat juices from dripping into any ready-to-eat food, which will not go further processing. Preventing unnecessary contact with foods inside the refrigerator is part of proper food safety practices.


How do you store fresh-caught fish in the fridge?

Assuming that the fresh-caught fish supplied to you has already undergone rigor mortis, your fresh produce must be immediately rinsed with cold water. Once done, the fish must be pat dried with paper towels to remove the excess water. 

To avoid chances for cross-contamination, the fish must be wrapped in plastic, aluminum foil, or freezer paper or stored in an airtight container lined in a single layer. Fish must be stored in the freezer within two hours after catching or purchasing. Alternatively, you can put it in the refrigerator keeping in mind that it is separated from the rest of the foods.

The refrigerator's proper temperature must also be at least be 40°F (4°C) or lower. This will prevent the unnecessary growth of bacteria in fish.


What is one guideline for storing seafood?

One of the most essential guidelines for storing seafood is that the temperature must remain 40°F (4°C) or lower. At room temperature or within the danger temperature, you can only store fresh seafood for a maximum of 2 hours and shorter on warm days. 


What are the storage requirements for fish?

When storing fresh fish, the two major requirements to keep fish safe and fresh are proper storage temperature and maximum storage time. These two requirements can determine the stability of fish and its suitability for use in different dishes.

In addition to these requirements, you must also consider the proper placement of fish products in original packaging. This is to prevent cross-contamination of the products stored together with the fish. 

The minimum storage temperature for keeping fish safe and fresh is at least 40°F (4°C) or lower. Under this temperature, the fish can be enjoyed at maximum eating quality within two days of purchase from the fish market and after storage. Food workers must consistently monitor the storage temperature, which is a critical factor for food safety.

In a freezer with a temperature of 0°F (-18°C), the fish can be stored within 3 months, provided it is stored correctly in a clean container with no additional water. Frozen fish, or even frozen seafood, is more stable than refrigerated ones in airtight containers. Remember that the maximum storage time will be dependent on the consistency of storage temperature and the suitability of the container where the raw ingredients are stored.


where must fish be stored?


Where must fresh fish be stored?

The best storage space for fresh fish would be a freezer with clean surfaces. At freezing temperatures, the quality of the fish is preserved well for a certain period of time. If the fresh fish is intended to be cooked in the next two days after purchase, refrigeration would be enough to keep the fish safe.

When stored in the refrigerator, the fish must be pat dried to prevent leaks and spoilage. It would be best if you also cleaned the pieces of fish before storing them to reduce the existing bacterial content. Even if the fresh fish is held together with other types of meat, it is not safe to store them close to each other without adequate protection. 


How long can raw fish stay in the fridge?

It is generally recommended that you can only keep fresh fish in the fridge for 2 days maximum before cooking. Beyond this time, you need to evaluate whether the fish is still safe for consumption or still has acceptable traits. 

The danger in keeping fresh fish in the fridge is that the temperature is not low enough to fully stop the growth of the majority of pathogenic microorganisms. The quality of the fish will continue to deteriorate when storage time is prolonged and can even increase the risk of food poisoning.


How long until raw fish goes bad?

When stored in the refrigerator, fresh fish can last up to 2 days, given that it was properly cleaned and stored. When clean fish is contained and stored in the freezer, it can last up to 3 months.

These estimated shelf-life periods are dependent on the consistency of maintaining the correct temperature for storage. Food handlers must be trained on the recommended temperatures of raw fish and how to apply corrective actions in case of non-compliance to minimize the risk of contamination by bacteria and other pathogens. 


How long can you keep raw salmon in the fridge?

Raw salmon and other types of fish undergo several stages of cleaning and transport; that is why it is only recommended to be refrigerated for a maximum of 2 days. After purchasing, the raw salmon must be immediately cleaned, dried, and refrigerated until use. Using the salmon past the second day is subject to the approval of a food safety manager or trained food employee.


How long can you keep raw salmon in the fridge


Where should fish and seafood be stored in a restaurant?

You must always store raw and fresh fish and common seafood in a commercial refrigerator or walk-in freezer in a restaurant or any food establishment. Fish and raw seafood must always be grouped together, contained, and placed below ready-to-eat food and vegetables or above beef and pork. To keep seafood last in the fridge, it must be properly cleaned and stored in a sanitized container.


Can you freeze fresh fish?

Yes, you can freeze fresh fish. In training food handlers on how to store fish in the freezer, you need to ensure that the fish you acquired is fresh and free from questionable characteristics. Next, wrap the fish in plastic or aluminum foil or seal it in an airtight container. You cannot just leave fish in the fridge without containing it as it may come in contact with other foods. Fresh, lean fish can be frozen for up to 9 months, whereas fatty fish for 3 months.


How do you preserve fish without refrigeration?

Without refrigeration, raw or fresh fish can sit at ambient temperature for a maximum of two hours. Beyond this time, the risk of causing any foodborne illness is exponentially increased. At most, individuals with weak immune systems, including children under the age of 5, pregnant women, and the elderly at risk. Are there other ways that you could preserve your fish if your refrigerator is full? Luckily, there are!

Here are some ways that you could prolong or even improve the quality of your fresh fish in a restaurant without refrigeration:

  • Use an ice chest. If your refrigerator wears down or is up for maintenance, you can use an ice chest filled with crushed ice or a block of ice to store and keep your fish fresh. Depending on the performance of your ice chest, it can maintain the temperature for a long time. Augment the ice with salt to further lower the temperature of the chest and prolong its reservation effect. This method requires close monitoring as the temperature may drop faster than inside a refrigerator.

raw fish storage on an ice chest

  • Salt and dry your fish. This method is an actual preservation technique. Salting your fish will draw out the moisture from the meat and speed up any drying process. Once the moisture is reduced to a stable level from drying, you can store your fish in an airtight container and keep it for a longer period of time.

  • Cook your fish. Partially cooked fish gives you an extra amount of time to keep it safe for consumption. Practices for cooking reduce the existing foodborne microorganisms on the fish and prevent fast spoilage. You can steam the fish or cook it and reheat it for later use.

  • Canning or brine-salting. This preservation method can be used to store whole fish or fish fillets for nine or more months. Brining is commonly done using a glass container and a pickling solution. On the other hand, canning uses special jars or cans and controlled conditions to exclude oxygen from the food. Canning involves subjecting the fish to high temperatures to remove any potential hazards, partially cooking the fish.

  • Smoking. Smoking is a great preservation method for places where sun exposure is not enough for drying. This preservation method imparts distinct and new flavors to the fish and is often loved for the smoky characteristics it imparts. The results vary depending on the type of wood used for smoking.

All of these alternative methods involve temperature control. Whether it is with a cooler temperature or warm temperatures, food handlers must have the right tools and training to ensure that the conditions are correct. Incorporate temperature monitoring in your food safety management system (FSMS). You can do this feature with our digital solution at FoodDocs.

With our digital FSMS, you can get automatically generated monitoring forms with an auto-fill feature. Our digital solution can help you gain more accuracy in monitoring temperature and efficiency in fulfilling every food safety task.


FoodDocs food safety system


How do you know if seafood is spoiled?

Refrigerated storage can only preserve the freshness of the food. You cannot do much if the fish you bought is not fresh. As such, you need to know how to identify fresh fish that will do well in storage. Additionally, freshness is highly related to safety.

Here are a few pointers to look out for when buying fish:

  • Fresh fish does not have an unpleasant, sour, or ammonia-like smell.
  • The flesh must be firm, and the skin surface must look shiny. The flesh should bounce back when pressed lightly.
  • The eyes of fish must be clear. Avoid fish with cloudy eyes as this is part of the signs of spoilage.
  • The gills must still be bright red in color.

When picking out any type of fish, you are more likely to get a fresher batch from suppliers who store their stocks on crushed ice. Additionally, storing raw fish in ice that is continuously draining can help prevent biological contamination. The cold conditions preserve the freshness of the fish and prevent the growth of unwanted bacteria. This operation is part of the food safety protocols of fish vendors. 


Maintaining the safety of fresh fish using a digital solution

The delicate and fresh meat of fish would not last long if stored incorrectly. Proper maintenance of storage conditions, including temperature, maximum storage time, and proper organization, are keys to a longer shelf-life. Additionally, storage conditions must remain clean and sanitized at all times. You need to monitor these conditions more than once a day to ensure that they are consistently followed. Otherwise, your fish and other food products may go stale and unsafe before you can get to use them. 

How can you monitor these conditions and ensure that your food handlers will never forget them, you ask? We have the perfect solution for you! Using our digital Food Safety Management System, you can get intuitive monitoring forms and smart notification features for your food safety team. 

When you avail of our digital solution, you can get the following features and more:

Temperature log FoodDocs

Temperature log from FoodDocs


  • Temperature log monitoring form. Our digital solution can automatically generate a temperature log monitoring form based on your operations. You can use this monitoring form to maintain the storage temperatures of your refrigerators regularly. To help you accurately record information, our digital monitoring forms are equipped with an auto-fill feature that prefills the logs with information based on your previous data entries. All that is left to do is to verify the data. 
  • Cleaning and sanitation checklist. Our system can also automatically generate a cleaning and sanitation checklist that you can use to ensure that the organization of your food items in the fridge is correct. Our generated monitoring forms can be further customized and improved with just a few clicks.
  • Smart notification. This feature is one of our highlights. With a smart notification system, our digital solution can send you notifications via our mobile app to remind your food employees of important food safety tasks. With this feature, no food safety task will ever be forgotten. In addition, this feature can also be used to remind food handlers of the use-by dates of every batch of product in your kitchen.  
  • Real-time dashboard. This feature gives you an overview of your food safety operations. Save at least 20% of your time from supervising your staff and focus on other areas of your food business. You can also use this feature to identify areas that need more attention.

The best part about our digital solution is that you do not have to be a tech expert to generate all the complicated food safety documents. All you need to do is answer a few basic questions, and our system will automatically generate them for you! Using artificial intelligence and a machine learning program, you can get a digital FSMS that fits your food safety operations exactly.

What's more, you can experience all these features and more with our free 14-day trial. Become part of our list of more than 20,000 customers enjoying food safety compliance with our digital solution.



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