Recent tightening of legislation has not been entirely about temperature control, despite the publicity this has received. Inspectors are now also checking that food storage shelving does not expose produce to the risk of contamination and must be "smooth, impervious and capable of being easily cleaned".
It also needs to be strong, if it's going to be piled with bags and tins; free of snags and protrusions that can catch clothes or tear fingers during cleaning; easy to clean, both under and around; and simple to assemble if you are putting it up yourself. So, not surprisingly, suppliers hold many options of shelving units, with some companies offering to customise systems for individual locations.
Andrew Ackroyd, owner of AMA Fabrications, which makes tables and shelving in 304 grade stainless steel, says: "We can custom-make any size of table or shelf to fit any kitchen. Our products come fully assembled as a welded construction, which makes them very strong. All welds are polished off so bacteria cannot gather."
Shelving specialist Bedford & Soar consults customers over making the best use of storage space. It has found that small changes to door positions and the shape of storage areas can improve efficiency by more than 20%.
The company stocks three shelving systems, all said to offer good airflow. Two products, Stockmaster and Quartermaster, use Bedfords' Airdeck wire shelf design.
Stockmaster is designed for coldrooms and store cupboards. The recently improved Quartermaster 2 comes in a range of finishes. The favourite is a tough Rislan nylon coat applied over shot-blasted mild steel, which is particularly suitable for coldrooms. Stainless steel finishes, electropolished to improve hygiene, are recommended for more hard-wearing environments.
Another Bedfords system, Alimaster, uses smooth aluminium sections and lift-out polyester shelf decking. David Duckworth, Bedfords' managing director, says: "With a wire shelf, all sides can be seen and cleaned using a soft sponge. With a solid shelf, the underside is not easily inspected and is sometimes missed. Condensation can remain on the underside and support bacterial growth."
Two systems from Craven - the Firmashelf 5000 range and the Craven aluminium storage system - provide a vast mix of sizes and finishes. Firmashelf 5000 comes in seven lengths and five widths, with wire or solid shelves. The range can carry up to 200kg per shelf or, on mobile units, up to 300kg per bay.
Craven's aluminium system comes in five lengths and four widths, with an anodised finish which the firm says is abrasion-resistant and chemically inert. Its removable infill panels can be cleaned in a dishwasher. Maximum loads for shelves with infill panels is 150kg per square metre or 240kg for mobile units. Both systems come flat-packed, though Craven offers an installation service.
The Tiger Rack system from manufacturer Doity Engineering is claimed to have extra strength because it is made from refined polypropylene with a steel core.
It comes in four heights and widths and 12 lengths. A patented wedge lock connection technique makes assembly and disassembly easy so the units can be cleaned in a dishwasher. Each shelf can carry 150kg. The system can be used in coldrooms and freezers as cold as -30ûC.
Fermod's Fermostock shelving can withstand temperatures from -30ûC to 90ûC, so it can be used in freezers and washed in dishwashers. Product manager David Stubbs says: "We are confident that the shelves more than meet the strictest regulations currently in force or likely to come into effect."
The frame is aluminium with a tough, anodised coating, and the fixing screws and pins are made from high-quality stainless steel. Air circulates through holes or slatted shelves for heavier constructions. Tiers can be adjusted in increments of 150mm. "The capping of ends on the uprights and sealing of pre-drilled holes has eliminated all sharp edges and ensures there are no dirt traps," says Stubbs. A patented conic fixing system means the shelves can be constructed or repositioned easily without tools.
Two systems from Foster Refrigerator, the Fosterstor and the Fosterack 300, are each suitable for dry storage or coldrooms. All the shelving has the option of castors. The Fosterack 300 mobile kit can transform static units into carts. Shelves come in a choice of wire, solid louvred and slatted options. The Fosterack 300 solid shelves, which are better suited to storing single items or those likely to incur spillage, are finished in stainless steel and have a highly polished surface to show up any dust accumulation. All can be adjusted easily without tools.
Both systems come in widths ranging from 300mm to 600mm, lengths between 600mm and 1,800mm and heights between 1,200mm and 2,000mm. Adjustments can be made at 50mm intervals with the Fosterstor system and 150mm with Fosterack.
Fosterstor, constructed from steel, has a load capacity of 400 kg per shelf, while Fosterack is available in three finishes - 304 stainless steel, anodised aluminium and heavy duty aluminium. Options with both systems include meat-hanging rails, side and back ledges, high-density storage systems and low-level dunnage racks.
Vynarac, a system made from high-impact food-grade plastic, is supplied in kit form by Hispack. It is said to have good resistance to moisture, salt and temperatures as low as -40¼C and load-bearing capacity of 180kg per shelf.
Cooking equipment manufacturer HMI Group produces a system called Cidelstock. It comes with one-piece flat stainless steel or duraluminium steel plain or louvred shelves. The system is guaranteed hygienic because of its smooth surfaces, which are free of fixing holes or screws and can be steam-cleaned. The company claims a basic module can be assembled by one person without tools in less than four minutes.
Another stainless steel system, supplied by MCE, is made in Switzerland by Franke and is available in either solid or slatted versions, with lengths starting at 50mm and depths of 200mm to 500mm.
Metro Foodservice Equipment's systems use "the most modern polymers, coatings and carbon fibres", says group director Barry Wells. Metro offers UK customers anti-corrosion warranties ranging from 10 years to a lifetime. Its ranges include the Super Erecta post system, the MetroMax Q quick-release system and the MetroMax system with carbon fibre posts. The units are held together using a wedge grip system that becomes more secure as the load increases.
Shelfspan Shelving Systems' Plastic Plus range is built with aluminium posts and shelf frames and a wide choice of plastic shelves. Non-corrosive and virtually maintenance free, it is said to be suitable for any situation, including freezers and outdoor use. It is quick to assemble, locking together posts and frames with a plastic adaptor. The wrap-around, snap-on shelf panels have a 350kg load-bearing capacity per shelf.
Stacarac (UK) makes plastic shelving systems to order. It offers any length, depth or number of shelves and any amount of clearance between shelves, with static or mobile shelves. n