Food Safety

Reusable Containers: A Food Storage Violation?

Shelly, the Friendly Health Inspector has been busy answering some really great questions – keep them coming –

Today’s Spotlight Question

“I operate several restaurants and I am visited by 2-3 health inspectors for my various locations. In one of my restaurants I was written up for a violation for reusing food packaging containers. You know, the containers that sour cream and cottage cheese are delivered in? I have them properly labeled so not sure why this is a problem.

The Inspection Report read:

Violation Code: 1750

  • Manufacturer containers were observed reused for the storage of other foods.
  • Discontinue the reuse of manufacturer containers for any food storage. Provide approved reusable food storage containers designed for your food storage needs.

Cambro Food Safety: Reusable Containers Violation

The other health inspectors at my other locations do not have an issue with this. Can you tell me why?”

Shelly’s Answer

“While this is typically a non- critical violation, The FDA food code states that single use containers cannot be re-used and, in addition, food containers that are re-used have to be durable and easily washable. Therefore, containers that food was delivered to your facility in may not meet these requirements for re-use and when the original food is gone the containers should be removed from the facility. Food storage containers that are re-used can’t have 90 degree edges, threads or other designs that are considered hard to clean because they can harbor bacteria and viruses that can then contaminate the food.

Also remember that is an inspector doesn’t write it as a violation it doesn’t mean they are ok with the practice. They could have missed it, it wasn’t happening when they were there; they were focusing on other violations or critical violation, etc. In addition, it is possible your inspector noticed something that might cause an issue, such as deteriorated, severely worn out or damaged containers. If he/she noticed something that is putting your food at risk or not keeping food protected from bacteria they might have felt it was best to advise you of this before a becomes a more serious issue.

I would discuss this issue with your local inspector and explain your situation – or ask for clarification. To be on the safe side, it is good idea to instead use NSF listed food storage containers with lids. These take the worry away as they are designed specifically for use in commercial kitchen applications.”

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