Stock rotation system using ‘FIFO’

Table of Contents

Today, I want to talk about a food stock rotation system using the ‘first in first out’ method.

If you run a food business, an effective food stock rotation system is essential to comply with food safety laws and ensure customer satisfaction.

The trouble is, some businesses do not know how to implement such a system and often their staff are not trained in this.

In this blog, we’re going to explore the first in first out method for food stock rotation and the key things you need to know to manage stock rotation in your business.

1. What is FIFO?

First in first out is the most common system used for stock rotation. Essentially, it means using products with a shorter shelf life first. For example; placing food with a shorter shelf life at the front of the shelves and stock with a longer shelf life at the back of the shelves.

That means stock with a longer shelf life will be used after older stock with a shorter expiry date.

2. What are the benefits of ‘FIFO’ for stock rotation?

There are many benefits of the FIFO method, including:

  • Selling food that is to the satisfaction of your customers
  • Ensuring you supply food which is safe to eat and within expiration dates
  • Ensuring the best product quality and freshness
  • Avoiding unnecessary waste (stock loss mitigation)
  • Avoiding ordering stock before you need it
  • Minimising unnecessary costs

3. Why is stock rotation important?

If you sell or supply food, effective stock rotation is critical to ensure food hygiene and freshness of food. It will ensure that the food you provide is safe to eat and of the quality expected by your customers. It will also help you to avoid unnecessary waste, cost and stock loss.

4. How should I manage stock rotation in practice?

Receipt of deliveries

Staff should check food deliveries as soon as they arrive. This includes checking whether food is within the expiration date. Foods that are supplied past their use by date, best before date or there is not enough shelf-life remaining for the food to be used, should be returned to the supplier.

Checks should also be made to ensure that food has been delivered at a safe temperature, the packaging is not damaged and there is no risk of cross contamination.

Any products not complying should be rejected, and the manager/supervisor notified so that the matter may be taken up with the supplier. Products which are to be returned to suppliers should be clearly labelled “Do not use”.

It is good practice to keep records of the checks that have been made.

When putting deliveries away make sure old and new stock are rotated.

Dry goods storage

Inventory management and date labelling in a dry store is important for effective stock control. When storing stock on shelves in a dry store place new stock, with a longer shelf life behind or underneath stock with a shorter shelf life. This will ensure that older stock is used first.

Chilled storage

Storing food items in refrigerated storage must be managed and any out of date food must be discarded as waste.

I’ve found food past the use by date during food hygiene inspections. This gives the impression that the business does not have a good monitoring system in place. To avoid the Environmental Health Officer (EHO) finding out of date food; train your staff as part of opening and closing checks to check food on each shelf in the fridge.

Don’t forget to check chilled display units as well where you may display items such as prepacked sandwiches.

Key considerations

  • Review your menu regularly and your needs to hold stock.
  • Plan the stock inventory you need for each shift.
  • Order carefully.
  • Check all stock when it is delivered.
  • Carry out regular stock checks.
  • Check dates, temperatures, quality and spoilage and make sure packaging is not damaged or contaminated. 
  • Train staff in stock control procedures.
  • Check stock control procedures are being followed.

5. What are the main types of date labels?

It is worth noting the main types of date labels.

Use by dates

It is an offence for a food business to have in its possession for use, food that is past its use-by date. This is because after the use-by date, it might not be safe to eat. 

Use by dates apply to perishable foods such as cooked meats/poultry and dairy products. Such products usually have a fairly short shelf-life.

Best before date

Best before dates are found on low-risk food items (e.g., biscuits, crisps, bread, flour, etc.). These are a guide provided by the manufacturer and relate to quality rather than food safety.  Good stock control will ensure that products are used within the best before date.

Sell by date

The sell by date is relevant to shops and supermarkets to help with the stock control process. These dates do not relate to food safety. For many items now, the sell by date has been removed.

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