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Food safety temperature control

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Gosport Borough Council Food Safety  - Temperature Control

 

Good temperature control of foods is fundamental to the safe operation of many food businesses.

 

Who is affected?

 

The Food Hygiene (England) Regulations 2006 apply to all types of food business - from a hot dog van to a five star restaurant, from a village hall, where food is prepared, to a vending machine.  If you are a caterer or retailer, or if you manufacture products which are not of animal origin, you will need to follow this advice, whether the food is sold publicly or privately, for profit or for fund raising. The Regulations do not apply to food cooked at home for private consumption.

 

The following parts of the food production chain, after primary production, are subject to the temperature controls specifies in the Food Hygiene (England) Regulations 2006:

 

  • Preparation 
  • handling
  • processing
  • packaging
  • manufacturing
  • storage
  • transporting
  • selling
  • distribution
  • supplying

 

What are the basic temperature requirements?

 

The Regulations state that foods which need temperature control for safety must be held either:

 

  •  HOT at or above a minimum temperature of 63 Degrees C

 

DANGER ZONE

 

  • CHILLED at or below a maximum temperature of 8 Degrees C

Certain foods may be exempt from these requirements and there is room for flexibility in certain circumstances.

 

What foods need temperature controls?

 

Rather than providing a long list of food items, the Regulations apply the requirement for temperature control to all types of food which, without temperature control, might support the growth of harmful (pathogenic) bacteria or the formation of poisons (toxins).   Such foods are likely to fall into a number of categories:

 

Dairy products:

 

Such as soft or semi-hard cheeses (e.g. Stilton, Brie) ripened by mould and/or bacteria, dairy based desserts such as fromage frais, mousses, creme caramels or products containing whipped creams.

 

Cooked products:

 

All foods comprising or containing eggs, meat, fish, milk, or their products, cereals (including rice), pulses and vegetables, or sandwiches which contain these ingredients

 

Smoked or cured ready-to-eat meat or fish:

Such as sliced cured meats like ham, smoked fish, some salamis and other fermented products - unless the curing method leaves the product 'shelf-stable' at room temperature.

 

Prepared ready-to-eat foods:

Such as prepared vegetables, vegetable salads like coleslaw or prepared products containing mayonnaise.

 

Uncooked or partly cooked pastry and dough products:

Such as pizzas or fresh pasta containing meat, fish (or substitutes) or vegetables. Some of these listed products may be preserved or prepared in such a way as to relax or remove the need for temperature control.

Because of food labelling legislation, packaged products should have special storage conditions on their labels, and any such conditions will indicate whether or not the food in the packaging needs to be kept chilled.

 

The general requirement

 

In addition to setting specific chill and hot holding temperatures for certain foods, the Regulations also contain a general overall temperature requirement that no person shall keep any raw materials, ingredients, intermediate products and finished products likely to support the growth of harmful bacteria or the formation of toxins at temperatures which would result in a risk to health.

 

In most circumstances maintaining food temperatures for relevant food at 8°C or below or at 63°C or above, will satisfy this requirement.  There will be situations where it is appropriate to keep foods at chill temperatures lower than 8°C for safety reasons. Examples may be certain cook-chill foods or some vacuum packed, extended shelf life foods such as 'sous vide' products.  (sous vide products are those which have been cooked in a vacuum package and are intended to be rapidly chilled and stored at chilled temperatures, often with long storage lives).

 

Which foods are exempt?

 

In specific circumstances, some foods are exempt from the 8°C limit.  These include:

  • Foods which can be kept at room temperature throughout their shelf life, without causing any health risk:e.g. some cured or smoked products or certain bakery products which are to be sold quickly.
  • Food which goes through a preservation process, e.g. canning or dehydration:
    Most canned or dried foods are stable at room temperatures until the can is opened or the food is rehydrated.  There are some cans of ham or similar cooked meats which may only be pasteurised, and these must be kept chilled. Once the seal of any can is broken, the food must be kept chilled if it contains any of the food types described earlier.  For high acid canned foods such as fruit or some vegetables chilled storage is not essential.
  • Food which must be ripened or matured at room temperature:
    e.g. soft or mould ripened cheeses. Once fully ripened or matured, the food must be stored and/or displayed by food businesses at or below 8°C.
  • Raw food intended for further processing (including cooking) which will ensure the food is fit for human consumption:
    e.g. fresh meat and fish, except where they are intended to be eaten raw, for example a steak tartar or sushi.
  • Mail order food:
    Although exempt from the 8°C control, mail order foods must be supplied at temperatures which will not present a health risk.

 

Flexibility

 

The Regulations recognise it is impractical to keep foods at the suggested temperatures at all times. At certain times, they therefore allow a degree of flexibility, called tolerances, which are explained below:

 

Service or display

 

Food normally requiring to be kept cold may be kept above 8°C for a single period of up to 4 hours, to allow it to be served or displayed.  After this period, any food remaining should be thrown away or chilled to 8°C or below until used.  This would include self-service food, buffets and some foods displayed in restaurants and cafés and food served or displayed in shops.

 

Only one tolerance period of service or display is allowed.  After this remaining food or foodstuffs should be either replaced under chill control until final use, or discarded.

 

Food which will be served hot may be kept for service or on display for sale to consumers below 63°C for a single period of up to two hours.   After this time, the food should either be discarded, reheated to above 63°C or cooled as quickly as possible to a temperature of 8°C or below.

 

You will need to keep records to prove the food has not been kept outside the specified temperature control for longer than the legal permitted times.

 

Handling and unloading

 

Limited periods outside chill control are also allowed where:

  • food is being loaded or unloaded from a refrigerated vehicle for transfer to or from food premises; or
  • there are unavoidable circumstances, for example when food has to be handled during and after processing and preparation, or if equipment is defrosted or temporarily breaks down.

Good management practice should ensure food is kept under these conditions for the shortest time possible.  The Regulations do not give specific time limit, but normally it should not be more than two hours, in order to avoid undue risk to the food.

 

Other tolerances

 

In a few circumstances, manufacturers or organisations can recommend a holding temperature above the normal 8°C chill temperature or below the 63°C minimum hot holding temperature.  However, any such recommendation must be supported by a well-founded scientific assessment, and a suitable shelf-life must be given. In practice there are likely to be few circumstances where this variation from normal temperature control is necessary or appropriate.  Manufacturers and suppliers of chilled products who recommend holding temperatures above 8°C, must state this clearly on the food label or any written instructions.

 

Cooling times

 

Cooling times are critical to food safety.  Foods which must be chilled for safety must be cooled as soon as possible after any final cooking or preparation. You can greatly reduce cooling times through simple measures such as limiting the size of joints or dividing products into smaller amounts.

 

Industry guides

 

Recognised voluntary industry guides to good hygiene practice may give more detailed advice on how to follow the Regulations.  They are usually produced by trade associations, in consultation with the Department of Health, the Food Standards Agency, consumer interests and enforcers, and focus on specific sectors of the industry (e.g. catering or retailing).

 

For further information please call (023) 9254 5505, 5506 or 5507 during office hours or call at the Town Hall, High Street, Gosport, Hampshire PO12 1EB.

 

Alternatively e-mail ehs@gosport.gov.uk any time.

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