How To Control Stock In A Food Business?
For business owners in the food industry, whether it be catering, manufacturing or retail, stock control is an important part of your business management procedures. We often get asked how to control stock in a food business? In this article, we outline the stock control measures that you can take to prevent contamination of foodstuffs through a robust management system.
Stock control ensures that you do not sell or use products that are beyond their shelf life. In the case of high-risk items such as dairy or meat products, this is particularly important as customers could become extremely ill if they consume something that has exceeded the expiry date. This is known as microbiological contamination.
Whilst this may not be such an issue with dried, tinned or frozen goods the quality will nevertheless deteriorate if kept for too long. In addition, poorly managed food stock may also become physically contaminated as a result of pest infestation or cross-contamination of allergens.
An effective stock rotation system should start with the management of the delivery.
Make sure that your staff check the incoming stock before you accept it. Products with seriously damaged packaging or whose use-by date has already expired should not be accepted and should be sent back to the supplier instead. Do not let it reach your shelves in the first instance!
Make sure that high-risk items are taken to the appropriate storage facility as soon as possible after unloading. Chilled or frozen goods should never be left sitting around at room temperature. If your business requires that you remove the original packaging and rewrap high-risk items, then the repackaged item must be labelled with the use-by date. Remember you cannot sell goods that have passed their use-by date!
The display of products should be monitored on a daily basis.
In particular, those with a short shelf life should be paid particular attention to. The display should be on a “first-in, first-out” basis. The items with the shortest life according to use by date should be towards the front of the display and care must be taken not to overstock with items with longer shelf lives as customers may search for these and buy them in preference to those with a shorter expiry date. If you sell or use dried goods that are removed from bulk packages and stored in air-tight containers then make sure that the whole package has been used, do not “top up” jars using a freshly opened packet. Damaged or contaminated stock should always be removed from use or display. Make sure that price stickers do not cover use by or best before dates.
Products which are sold loose or displayed for the consumer to self-serve, such as salad buffets or carveries, should be protected from contamination by sneeze guards or screens. Your staff should be aware of use by dates shown on the bulk packaging of these items and keep a check on when they should be removed from counters and disposed of. To reduce waste it is better to display small portions and keep topping them up than have large portions on show that may become contaminated and therefore go to waste.
The best way to manage these control measures is by compiling a written procedure that staff should follow.
This should include the tasks to be carried out at the various stages, such as delivery, storage, labelling and display. The list should include timeframes of when tasks should be carried out, for example, “Check use-by dates daily”. If you can provide tick box record sheets for staff this makes the process clearer and easier to follow.
Once you have a procedure in place it should be monitored to ensure it is working.
Managers and supervisors should carry out both regular inspections and spot checks, looking at the use-by dates of items on the shelves and reviewing the record sheets. This will enable you to identify any problem areas quickly. Problems should be recorded as non-conformities and actions taken to resolve the problem. The action taken should also be recorded. This continual review process should enable you to identify the areas that need improvement and help you manage your stock levels in the most efficient and therefore cost-effective way.
Effective stock control methods are discussed in all our Food Safety courses.