Skip to main content
California Department of Education Logo

Proper Storage Temperatures for USDA Foods

Information on storage temperatures and storage guidelines for U.S. Department of Agriculture Foods (USDA).

Correct temperature control is essential to maintain food quality, nutrient content, and control bacterial growth. Daily monitoring of temperatures is necessary to ensure adequate storage conditions.

Dry Storage

Many items such as canned goods, baking supplies, grains, and cereals may be held safely in dry storage areas. The guidelines below should be followed:

  • Keep dry storage areas clean with good ventilation to control humidity and prevent the growth of mold and bacteria.
  • Store dry foods at 50°F for maximum shelf life. However, 70°F is adequate for dry storage of most products.
  • Place a thermometer on the wall in the dry storage area.
  • Check the temperature of the storeroom daily.
  • Store foods away from sources of heat and light, which decrease shelf life.
  • Store foods off the floor and away from walls to allow for adequate air circulation.

Refrigerated Storage

Refrigeration increases shelf life of most products. Most importantly, refrigeration slows bacterial growth. Optimal refrigerated storage conditions can be achieved by following these guidelines:

  • Maintain refrigerated storage spaces at 32-40°F.
  • Make thermometers readily observable, easily readable, and accurate to +/-3°F.
  • Position the temperature sensor to register the warmest air in the refrigerated space to ensure adequate cooling.
  • Establish the correct refrigerator temperature by placing a thermometer in a glass of water in the middle of the refrigerator. Wait five to eight hours. If the temperature is not 38-40°F, adjust the temperature control. Check again after five to eight hours.
  • Ensure that refrigerators have enough open, slotted shelving to allow for air circulation around shelves and refrigerator walls to maintain proper food temperatures.
  • Ensure that doors have a good seal and close tightly to maintain the temperature and the efficiency of the unit. Additionally, keep doors closed as much as possible.
  • A back-up appliance thermometer should be kept in the refrigerated unit in case of a power outage. If a power outage occurs, any foods held at 41°F or higher for more than two hours should not be consumed.

Freezer Storage

Freezers should be used to store frozen food when it is received. Optimal frozen storage conditions can be achieved by following these guidelines:

  • Maintain freezer storage spaces at 0°F or below.
  • Position the temperature sensor to represent the actual storage temperature or place several thermometers in the unit to ensure accuracy and consistency.
  • Establish the correct temperature in the freezer by placing a thermometer between frozen food packages. Wait five to eight hours. If the temperature is not 0-2°F, adjust the freezer temperature control. Check again after five to eight hours.
  • Ensure that freezers have enough open, slotted shelving to allow for air circulation around shelves and walls to maintain adequate food temperatures.
  • Ensure that doors have a good seal and close tightly to prevent heat gain. Additionally, keep doors closed as much as possible.
  • A back-up appliance thermometer should also be kept in the freezer unit in case of a power outage. If there is a power outage, it is important to keep foods grouped together to retain the cold and to keep the door closed as much as possible. If the freezer has maintained a temperature of 0°F or below up to the time that the power returns, the food is safe. Again, foods held at 41°F or higher for more than two hours should not be consumed.

References

Questions:   Food Distribution Program | 916-324-7132
Last Reviewed: Thursday, February 3, 2022
Related Content
  • Food Distribution
    Information about United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) food commodities, Department of Defense (DoD) fresh produce, distribution centers, and processing of USDA Foods.
  • Guidance, Manuals, and Resources
    Resources and information regarding the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Distribution Program requirements and operations.
Recently Posted in Nutrition
  • Reducing Added Sugars at School Breakfast (added 12-Aug-2022)
    This training guide will help school nutrition professionals identify sources of added sugars and provide specific ways to reduce the amount of added sugars in school breakfast meals.
  • ISNPA Webinar: Meal Counting and Claiming – Part 2 (added 11-Aug-2022)
    Introduction to School Nutrition Program Administration (ISNPA) webinar series for local school nutrition directors, managers, and nutrition staff. Meal Counting and Claiming – Part 2 training will be offered on September 6, 2022, at 2:00 p.m.
  • 2022–23 School Year SNP Waiver Elections (added 04-Aug-2022)
    This information announces the online application for the 2022-23 School Year (SY) Waiver Elections. It provides the link to the online application and the period for which the application is live.
  • Farm to Summer Celebration Week: Post-Survey (added 04-Aug-2022)
    The Farm to Summer Celebration Week: Post-Survey for SSO and SFSP Program Operators.
  • School Year 2022–23 Annual Update Now Open (added 03-Aug-2022)
    This notifies program operators that the School Year 2022–23 Annual Update in CNIPS is now open.