This is part four of a four-part series on building a food safety culture in your establishment by Francine L. Shaw, president, Food Safety Training Solutions, Inc.
Creating a food safety culture is the responsibility of the entire team. Creating, facilitating and instilling food safety policies throughout the entire company is a responsibility that does not lie with one person.
The Centers for Disease Control and prevention (CDC) estimates that 1 in 6 Americans gets sick from eating contaminated food every year. Foodborne illness is common, costly and 100% preventable!
Temperature abuse is a major factor contributing to foodborne illness. Monitoring temperature during food processing, distribution, and storage is an easy, effective means to reduce the occurrence of foodborne disease. In fact, two of the top five risk factors responsible for causing foodborne illness, as reported by the CDC, involve temperature control. Those risk factors are improper hot/cold holding temperatures of potentially hazardous food and improper cooking temperatures of food.
Make sure all employees understand that time and temperature control are important aspects of building a food safety culture. The temperature range in which foodborne bacteria can grow is known as the danger zone. Another critical role in food safety is time and temperature control. The amount of time that food spends in the temperature danger zone must be minimized to prevent time-temperature abuse.
Holding time/temperature control for safety (TCS) foods (TCS food is food that requires time and temperature control for safety) at proper temperatures is important because it minimizes the growth of any pathogenic bacteria that might be present in the food. TCS foods at improper temperatures may allow pathogenic bacteria to reproduce rapidly to large numbers, putting someone who eats that food at extreme risk for foodborne illness.
TCS foods that are going to be held at cold temperatures (i.e., refrigerated) must be held at a temperature of 41°F or below. It is important that the temperature of the food itself always be at 41°F or below. Foods in a cooler that read 40°F in the morning before the restaurant opens may rise above 41°F during rush periods when the cooler door is constantly opening and closing.
TCS foods that are going to be held at hot temperatures must be held at a temperature of 135°F or above.
The temperature range between 41°F and 135°F is called the danger zone. Food facility operators must minimize the amount of time that TCS foods spend in the danger zone.
This applies to the cooling and reheating of TCS foods as well. When cooling hot foods for later use, they must be cooled quickly. This means that the temperature must be reduced from 135°F to 70°F within two hours, and then from 70°F to 41°F within four additional hours. At the end of six hours, the food must be at or below 41°F.
When reheating cold foods to hot, they must be rapidly reheated. TCS foods must be reheated to 165°F within two hours before being placed in a hot holding unit.
A company’s food safety culture is composed of many different segments. You must not only talk the talk but walk the walk. Leading by example is imperative, as is good training and follow-up. Don’t just say your business has a food safety culture, understand the value of that culture. Make certain that food safety policies and procedures are established, correctly followed and ingrained as part of your corporate culture. Do your part to help your company be recognized as the leader in the industry.