As it’s officially Food Safety Education Month we thought we’d do our bit to prevent foodborne illness with our Top 5 Tips for Safe Food Handling!
For Food Safety Education Month we will look at the importance of accurate temperature measurement and why the control of temperature is critical to the quality and safety of your food products.
Many foods that are handled in homes, food service and food processing businesses contain harmful bacteria. The growth of such bacteria can easily be controlled by ensuring that food is stored at and cooked to the right temperature. Harmful bacteria can be reduced or destroyed by cooking or reheating to the correct temperature.
For Food Safety Education Month we recommend that you create a new or revisit your existing Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) or food safety plan. Developing and maintaining a HACCP plan is a key step in ensuring compliance with food safety regulations. Members of the food industry can minimize the risk of food safety hazards by establishing a written procedure across the supply chain.
Critical control points can vary across HACCP plans and depend largely upon a person’s role in the food preparation process, but may include receiving, cold storage, thawing, preparing, cooking, reheating or during transport – So these will be the focus of our next tips for this Food Safety Education Month special.
It is important that quick temperature safety checks are carried out whenever food deliveries are being accepted. Using an infrared thermometer is a quick and easy way to take a surface temperature reading and is non-destructive. They are great for checking frozen goods too which would normally be difficult to penetrate with a temperature probe. You should only accept chilled food that has been transported and delivered at suitable temperatures, ideally. 40°F or below. Frozen food should always be delivered at 0°F or below. As an alternative to an infrared thermometer a hand-held thermometer fitted with a between pack probe can also be used to measure the temperature of products without damaging any packaging.
When storing food it is important to maintain safe temperature conditions at all times. Frozen food should be stored at 0°F or below and for chilled food the safe temperature recommended is 40°F or below.
Refrigerator and freezer thermometers or temperature data loggers can easily be kept in refrigerators, chillers, cold displays, walk-ins and freezers and checked regularly, so that you are able to verify that your storage equipment is always operating at the right temperature. This process can also be automated with a wireless temperature monitoring system that can even alert you if a door has inadvertently been left open.
It is good practice to take temperature readings throughout the cooking process. With meat or poultry always check the temperature at the center of the thickest part of the product using a thermometer with a penetration probe. The centre should reach a safe cooking temperature of at least 165°F. Casseroles, soups and other liquid foods should be stirred to distribute the heat before either probing or scanning with an infrared food thermometer. If you are using an infrared food thermometer you should definitely check out our Top Ten Ways to use an Infrared Thermometer infographic.
Hot Holding and Cooling
If food is not stored correctly harmful bacteria will develop and render the food unsafe for consumption. Food that is intended for hot-holding cabinets or similar, should be transferred to the pre-heated equipment as soon as possible after reheating or cooking. All food served from hot-holding must be kept above 135°F. A dial thermometer or data logger can be used to monitor the temperature that the equipment is at. We would always recommend making regular temperature checks on stored food using a food thermometer, rather than just relying on the equipment functioning correctly.
You can read more about Food Safety Education Month and access further resources to help you put food safety first by visiting the FDA Food Safety Education Month and CDC Food Safety Education Month pages.