Summer is here and with the warmer temperatures it is very important we all manage food safety- especially temperature control, monitoring and recording.
Food temperature monitoring and recording is a requirement of the Simply Safe and Suitable (SSS) Food Control Plan (FCP) and plays a vital role in food safety. Temperature monitoring records are used to prove that you and your staff are producing, handling and storing food safely, and can help prove that you and your staff are producing safe and suitable food in a complaint/adverse situation.
The following tips have been put together to help you understand the importance of correct temperature monitoring and recording and help you mitigate food safety risks.
Tip 1 - Sourcing, receiving and storing food (delivery temperatures).
The ‘Sourcing, receiving and storing food’ SSS FCP topic requires all food businesses to check and record the delivery temperature/s of potentially hazardous food (perishable foods such as dairy products, meats/seafoods, and any other food that MUST live in a fridge/freezer to be safe). The easiest way to do this is to check the delivery temperature with either; a calibrated probe thermometer (placed between 2 chilled items or Cleaned then Sanitised (C/S) and inserted into the food), or a calibrated infrared thermometer, for at least 1 item off the refrigerated department of the truck/van and then record either; in your SSS Records Blanks (page 13 & 14) record, or (even easier) directly into your Safe Food Pro app, another option is directly record the temperature on the delivery invoice. For frozen items just check they are solid/hard and record as per above. Please ensure you have some delivery invoices at your verification for the verifier to review.
If food is delivered out of the safe zone (Safe zone = 0-5˚C or 60 ˚C or above) you can accept the food if above 5 ˚C. However, you must confirm with the driver/dispatch, that the truck/van had been on the road for less than 2 hours (see the 2/4-hour rule in the SSS FCP). For food delivered out of the safe zone or past the 2-hour rule, do not accept it and send it back. Please record this in your FCP records (see ‘When something goes wrong Records Blanks template pages 35 & 36).
Tip 2 – Keeping food cold (fridge/freezers).
As it gets hotter over the summer months, food businesses and staff need to be extra vigilant to ensure all potentially hazardous food is suitably stored in the safe zone (between 0-5 ˚C). The SSS FCP requires daily fridge monitoring and recording to ensure the fridges can maintain the safe zone temperature. There are 3 methods allowable in the SSS FCP '’Keeping food cold" topic. Please ensure you have tailored your SSS FCP to reflect the method you and your staff are completing, and staff are trained appropriately to follow the method you have tailored in your FCP. The easiest and least time-consuming method for fridge temperature monitoring and recording is to install an automatic temperature monitoring system (see summary below).
If problems arise during the monitoring of fridge temperatures, please ensure you take and record the corrective actions taken to ensure the food is safe, such as found fridge 1 to be at 11˚C, so placed food into fridge 2, as was in safe zone, and contacted fridge technician to fix the problem, fixed on the (date) and retested and found to be at 3.2˚C, so placed food back into fridge 1 (see records blanks ‘When something goes wrong’ records blanks template).
Tip 3 – Cooking food/Cooking poultry, minced meat or chicken liver.
It is very important that food is cooked to the correct time/temperature requirements to ensure the bad bugs are eliminated/killed in the cooking process. The SSS FCP, ‘Cooking poultry, minced meat and chicken liver’ topic has the below time/temperature requirements (Minimum time at temperature = holding time);
To explain this in a way that we can all understand, at 65˚C it takes 15 minutes (holding time) to kill bugs, at 70˚C it takes 3 minutes (holding time) to kill bugs, and at 75˚C it takes 30 seconds (holding time). Please also be aware, that at 85˚C the main offending food bugs are killed instantly, hence no need to record a holding time.
The easiest way to complete cooking monitoring and recording is to use a calibrated probe thermometer, which is C/S then inserted into the thickest part of the product. For example, if using the 75˚C temperature you would C/S the probe insert and wait for 30 seconds, and if the temperature after 30 seconds is 75˚C or above the bugs are killed.
Hence, to safeguard against food borne illness events that can cause unwanted interruptions or result in enforcement action, let alone cause some serious harm to your customers. Therefore, it is very important all staff are trained to follow the time/temperature requirements.
NB: The easiest and quickest way to C/S your probe thermometer is to use an alcohol type of sanitiser wipe. Probe thermometer sanitiser wipes can be sourced from any reputable hospitality service provider. Please try to avoid scented products, such as lavender, pine etc.
Tip 4 – Reheating food.
Reheating food to the required temperature is another very essential part of supplying safe and suitable food to your customers. The SSS FCP ‘Reheating food’ topic requires all reheated food to be reheated to at least 75 ˚C.
Even though the SSS FCP does not require recording of reheating monitoring, best practice is to monitor and record at least 1 item of reheated food per week. The records are then good proof you and your staff are getting it right and your verifier should commend you on going above and beyond the SSS FCP requirements.
NB: Please be aware that infrared thermometers only catch the surface temperature and are not the best practice way to monitor reheating or cooking temperatures. Also, reheating food in a display unit is not a suitable way to reheat food, unless it is designed to do so, as it takes too long to reheat the food to the required temperature and bugs can grow and cause possible food borne illness issues. Please also ensure all relevant staff C/S the probe thermometer when directly monitoring food.
Tip 5 – Keeping food hot.
Operators that keep food hot, such as food held in a hot holding display unit (pie warmer) or Bain Marie/soup urn, must ensure that the hot held food is kept in the safe zone (60 ˚C or above). The SSS FCP ‘Keeping food hot’ topic requires food businesses to check the temperature of the food when food is held hot for more than 2 hours and ensure it is held hot above 60 ˚C.
One thing verifiers find at verifications is that operators do not have a suitable system in place to monitor how long hot held food has been held hot for. There are many ways to monitor how long food is held hot, for example, use a white board marker on the service side of the display unit and right what time the different foods on each shelf has been put into the unit.
Event though the SSS FCP does not require food businesses to record the monitoring of hot held food, it is considered best practice to record the monitoring checks to prove you are complying with the ‘Keeping food hot’ topic requirements. The easiest way to comply with this topic is to ensure food is not held hot for longer than 2 hours. Like the old saying ‘It’s is better to run out than throw out’.
NB: Please note if reheated food is found during monitoring to be in the danger zone (between 5-60 ˚C) it can be reheated to above 75 ˚C and served within 4 hours, otherwise it MUST be thrown out.
Therefore, as you can see temperature monitoring is an fundamental role in your food safety requirements and if being followed and completed correctly, can also help you in any complaint/adverse situation to prove you are following safe and suitable food handling practices.
A very easy way to ensure you are complying with your food safety and SSS FCP, ‘Keeping food cold’ topic requirements, is to install an automatic temperature monitoring system.
Automatic fridge temperature monitoring systems can save you time and allow for ease of verifying, as all records can be kept in your Safe Food Pro app and be pulled up easily for the verifier to review.
Safe Food Pro have a number of different temperature monitoring systems that can be found via the following link - https://www.safefoodpro.com/wireless-temperature-monitoring-nz