The Importance of Food Temperature in Commercial Settings

January 26, 2018

in Lifestyle

Food safety is a hot-button topic, and rightly so: the storage and cooking temperatures of foods has a direct impact on the prevention or promotion of bacterial growth. Consumers trust commercial food establishments to know the rules and regulations regarding food temperature safety in order to prevent food-borne illnesses. On the other hand, regulating food temperature is also quite important for any establishment’s reputation. Beside potential citations and fines from local regulatory offices, all it takes is one or two stories of food poisoning attributed to your food for business to go south.

Hot and Cold Temperatures Are Both Important

The root of all (well, most) evil in the food safety world is lukewarm temperature. The so-called “danger zone” is between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Bacteria can quickly multiply in food when stored at these temperatures.

Fridges and freezers, therefore, should be set below 40 degrees Fahrenheit in order to inhibit the growth of bacteria.

Power outages can be a source of confusion regarding food safety. Generally speaking, if the food has sat at a temperature above 40 degrees Fahrenheit for more than 2 hours, it should be discarded because the risk of bacterial contamination is too great. Monitor the temperature of the freezer during the power outage. If the freezer never rises above 40 degrees, the food is still safe to use.

Likewise, when cooking food, temperatures of at least 140 degrees Fahrenheit must be reached in order to kill the bacteria that thrive in the “danger zone.” However, when cooking meat in particular, different types of bacteria are more likely to be found in different types of meat. The USDA recommends cooking beef, pork, lamb and veal steaks to a minimum of 145 degrees; ground versions of these meats to 160 degrees; and poultry to 165 degrees. Once cooked, the food should maintain a temperature of 140 degrees until served.

Taking Accurate Temperatures

To take an accurate temperature reading, it’s important to use the right tools. Hand-held devices with temperature probes, such as the SureCheck Advantage, are highly recommended due to their ease of use and integrated tracking systems. The “internal temperature” of food must be recorded. This means that the probe reaches the center of the meat, for example, to find the minimum temperatures outlined above. The center will always be the last to heat, so if the center is at an appropriate temperature, the outside is as well. However, the opposite is not true: measuring the outside of the food will not give an accurate reading of the inside. 

There are several different ways to obtain the temperature of a freezer or fridge. Many commercial units have built-in thermometers that make readings easy. Other times, you’ll want to let a portable probe sit in the freezer (between two bags of frozen produce, for example) for at least 24 hours. And yet another method is to use a digital temperature gauge that reads the ambient air levels within just a few seconds. Keeping a thermometer in the freezer for accurate at-a-glance readings is also useful.

Finally, take daily readings of your freezer to track performance, and spot-check the internal temperature of cooked meats every day. Keep accurate records for your health inspector and for peace of mind.

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Lindsey Renuard is a blogger, YouTube beauty expert, and the Managing Editor of the Skiatook Journal.

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