TEMPERATURE CONTROL RULES Why is Temperature Control important?
Temperature control is important because harmful bacteria are a hazard present in many of the foods handled in catering businesses.
They also tend to multiply rapidly at temperatures above 5c, the higher temperature and longer the time exposed to the temperature the faster the bacteria growth . As bacteria are invisible to the naked eye and cannot be physically removed from food, all we can do is control their numbers.
There are two main ways in which temperature can be used to achieve this:
We can destroy harmful bacteria, or reduce their numbers, by cooking or reheating and
We can control their growth by keeping food hot or cold.
Lets look at cold.
The following practices are recommended to keep food safe. Your refrigerator should operate at an average of 5°C or below. These temperatures would then be the Critical Limits for Refrigerated Storage. Refrigeration of food temperature of 5°C or below is effective in controlling the quick multiplication of most bacteria in perishable food. It is recommended practice to operate refrigerators and chills at 5°C or below. Freezing of food should be done at -18c.
Time and temperature.
Just because food storage exceeds 5c for a short period of time does not mean that bacteria instantly grows at a rapid rate, your refrigeration being above temperature for a SHORT period of time is not dangerous.
Scientifically it has been shown that bacteria on high risk foods rapidly increase when the food is above 5c for periods exceeding 2 hrs, at 4hrs the food should be discarded.
The issue arises when refrigeration is cool but not cold! Eg A prep cabinet running at an average of 8-10c instead of below 5c. Whilst the bacteria won’t grow as quickly as if the food was at room temperature it will grow and at a dangerous rate, and this is where most hospitality operations get caught out.
I see so many refrigeration units that constantly run in the 5-10c zone, it’s scary. And to be honest in a hot kitchen environment it’s often difficult for small refrigeration units that have doors constantly being open and closed, especially with ingredient wells in the top to maintain correct temperature.
If you are only checking your refrigeration twice a day then you are assuming or guessing that the other 99% of the day the temperature is correct.
Aside from correct food safe procedure, ensuring proper refrigeration temperatures can result in improved shelf life of product and general quality of.
Food manufacturers and major suppliers don’t make guesses or assumptions that all their refrigeration temperatures are correct 24/7/365, they use digital technology to ensure it is, and it’s also far more economical to have technology to this and provided accurate records than employ staff to do so.
Using technology to help Chef’s
The ‘IOT’ world (internet of things) has arrived and its now entering the commercial kitchen space. Basically IOT means things that are connected to the internet , and hopefully add value to our lives.
We can now add temperature sensors to all refrigerated storage areas in the kitchen and have those sensors talk to the internet.
We can tell the sensors how often to talk to the internet and when to be alarmed about a set of data. From that we can direct the sensor to do something.
Basically if the sensor see’s that your coolroom is running at a temperature deemed to be too high for too long we can ask it to tell us, in most cases many people, normally via SMS text and or email to a smart phone/pad or computer.
As long as the customer has access to the internet they can see current and past history of temperatures of their entire site at the push of a button form anywhere in the world!
With this information the kitchen manager/chef/food safety supervisor can make a decision on what needs to be done, could be a simple as shut the coolroom door properly , or check the food and perhaps discard.
The sensors collect massive amount of data, basically they are checking your refrigeration temperatures 24/7/365 and then they are storing this data for future access or better still to produce a weekly report as evidence that food storage temperatures are at correct temperatures.
The minimum standard in Hospitality is to collect data samples twice a day , in some health food service sectors it maybe every four hours. If you have a lot of fridges this can be a very costly exercise, time wise, time=money.Why pay staff do do it (that may or may not do it correctly if at all!) when technology can do it for you?
Not only can technology do the task for a fraction of the costs of human labour it does it ‘independently ‘ , ‘accurately’ and with lots of data and evidence that can actually be called a ‘fair sample’ of evidence. Twice a day is nothing, it’s less than 1% of the day the other 99% is unaccounted for !
‘If’ a commercial kitchen and or food premises is following the legislation and duty of care that it is required to by LAW, they MUST be checking and recording the temperature of their critical control points, the fundamental basic step in following correct food safety and HACCP principles.
There is NO IF”S or BUT’S about it, you need to be checking the temperature of food storage Coolrooms, refrigeration and freezers. How else do you really know if your perishables are being stored correctly at a safe temperature, not only is this critical for food safety but if your storage temps are not correct your shelf life of your product will be significantly reduced, so food costs get blown out by wastage, and let’s not go down the path of creating a food posioning incident due to bacteria contaminated food, bacteria that was allowed to grow because you weren’t storing at correct temperatures!
WHAT IS IT YOU MUST DO TO COMPLY?
A daily recorded check sheet of all refrigerated storage areas taken at least 4 times per day 7 days a week, these data check lists need to be kept on file also.
Now let’s look at reality:
Who are you going to pay to do this job? How much money in labour is that going to cost your operation?
Also are you sure that your staff are actually noting down the ‘real correct temperatures’ or are they just jotting down numbers to fiddle the books and tick the box’s so to speak!
How are you taking the temperature? The digital (that’s if you have one!) display on the outside of the fridge is NOT ALWAYS THE ACTUAL TEMP OF THAT ROOM or CABINET! That’s right read that again! It’s often measuring the air coming in, and that’s not necessarily the actual temperature of what’s going on with that piece of meat stored at the far end of the room or cabinet! YOU NEED TO HAVE A SEPERATE TEMP PROBE IN THE ROOM/CABINET
Accuracy, not only do we have the human error opportunity of just ‘ticking the box’s ‘ so to speak, what about the device that’s in the Coolrooms/fridge, how accurate is it? Is it calibrated? measured at what % of accuracy? In my experience those that have a separate internal temperature checking system have the most basic cheapest thing they possibly could get their hands on 99% of the time it’s not even digital, actual accuracy is very doubtful at best.
The other issue is , frequency..four times would be probably double what most places I see do this and even if you managed 4 times, what’s going on between hour one and hour six? Or what’s happening in the middle of the night? Your Cool rooms or refrigerated cabinets holding all your valuable perishables could be running over temperature whilst you are soundly asleep and you would have no idea, or no record of it either.
To really monitor temperatures properly the temperatures of the inside of the room/cabinet should really be monitored in smaller instalments of 10-15minutes and recorded at least half hourly.
So let’s assume you are following the above procedure. Let’s look at the costs involved in compliance, assume the following example:
Two Coolrooms, One Freezer, Four prep/service storage cabinets and you are checking four times a day.
7 checks at 2 minutes per check and noting on chart that’s 14 minutes x 4 times per day that’s 56 minutes a day, let’s call that 1 Hr. ! Hr at $35 real wage costs (your not going to entrust the 1st Year Apprentice with this important task!)
Now we need to do 7 days of the week plus we need to collect the data and file it and then set up a fresh set of data sheets, there’s another 15-30 minutes easily, but we won’t even bother with that in the calculation just to keep the point simple.
So $35 x 365 days = $12,775 per year to comply with legislation! That an insane cost, worse in larger establishments.
Even a smaller operation with half this amount of storage you are still looking at approximately $6,350+ per year in lost labour, and you still have an audit system that only accounts for less than 0.5% of 24hrs of your operation, that means you could have systems running over temp 99% of the time potentially. Whilst that is hopefully not likely its pretty safe to say that two quick checks per day does not reflect what your food storage temperatures all day long!
There has to be a better way, and there is! It’s so simple it’s ridiculous!
Set up a wireless digital temperature monitoring system that does it all 24/7 365 days and documents everything on an Internet cloud server for your data filing and better still if one of the Coolrooms or Cabinets breaks down and goes over temperature it will email you and text you an alert so you can go and rescue your stock before its all too late! Which could save you THOUSANDS OF $$$ in lost stock!
The other important fact in rescuing stock if a cool room or refrigerated cabinet goes down and stock is lost, is the LABOUR COST to DO THE PREP WORK AGAIN! Imagine if the function coolroom room goes down with all your meals ready for tomorrows big gig, not only do you lose the value of the stock but the prep needs to be done again! Do you have time? Do you have the staff and that also means paying them twice to the job once!
Over the years I have seen a lot of claims by equipment manufactures that promise all sorts of labour saving claims, reduced energy etc etc and much of it is true to a point. But setting a basic wireless temperature monitoring system for your operation is the simplest and cost effective thing that any foodservice operation could ever do.
These systems also record temperatures as often as every minute if set up as such, but the reality is you would set up for longer intervals then this. We set our systems up to check every five minutes and record every 15. So now we are recoding up to 96 per day, which by all counts is much better than the couple of very rough and quick checks twice a day, three times if your lukcy!
Accuracy, the units are accurate within .2c and can be calibrated. Calibrated means that if the unit was to fall outside of the accuracy zone when check against another 100% (or close as possible to) device the unit can be adjusted to be back on correct accurate readings. The other great feature is if/when the battery in the temperature check unit starts to get low , an alert is raised to remind the operator to replace the battery pretty cool!
Better still if you are really bored you can remotely see all of your fridge/cabinet temperatures with the convenience of an iPhone or iPad APP, any where anytime. You could be out playing golf and be alerted that a fridge has broken down by a message on your phone, the guys back in the kitchen probably haven’t event noticed it yet as they are too busy!
Imagine that phone call back to the kitchen, ‘hey guys pull all of the meat out of the cabinet and transfer to a working unit and call the fridge mechanic to sort it out’ that could be a thousand dollar plus phone call in getting to all that meat before it was too late!
Sounds all high tech, complicated , is it new, never heard of this before.
It’s actually not new technology, I first really got into it around ten years ago, when back then it was new, but massive companies , like Burger King were staring to take up the technology as also many hospital food service operations. But the tech back then was more complicated, not totally reliable and really expensive making it out of the range of everyday establishments.
Fast forward 10 years , like all tech, the bugs have been sorted and the price is a fraction of what it was, it’s now dirt cheap, really cheap like under $1,000 to for a year, for a device monitored 24/7 and automatically doing all your data logging , so there is really no excuse.
In the above labour cost example you could waste $12,775 per year to poorly keep a very dodgy set of paper log files per year that really wouldn’t stand up in court if push every came to shove, OR spend a fraction of that costs to have 96 records per day 365 all recorded electronically PLUS get an alert if and when a cabinet/Coolrooms goes down
That frees up hundreds of hours of labour, saves you thousands in labour costs, and makes you 100% compliant with the part of food safety and HACCP control, so it’s a no brainer really!
The other part about HACCP and food safety compliance is that you need to keep records of the temperature data logged and filed. With this system it’s all held on line on a cloud server and you can look at the graphs any time or export to a PDF document or spread sheet.
So when requested by your local authority for records you can just download what you require and email away, and if your operation ever was subject to a food safety issue you will be easily able to produce all of your temperature monitoring reports quickly easily and with confidence of accuracy.
The added bonus with these types of systems also is analyzing the performance of your refrigeration systems. Most operators have no idea that their systems are not running to temperature, a quick check of the graphs at the end of the week and you can see what issues you may have and set up a course of action.
Refrigeration mechanics love these systems also as they have hours and days of data that they can quickly call upon to help diagnose issues of under performance of the systems. In same cases the data graphs may show that they have long defrost cycles timing with the service times in kitchens, the time when you need your refrigeration working hardest, not on a defrost cycle.
The information provided, the administration time saved and the insurance that you can actually tick off the ‘store food at safe temperature’ part of your food service plan means that thee types of systems will be common place standard in all operations in the future. They all ready are in such places as hospitals and commercial food production and even supermarkets.
It’s really something that you really need to have in place, not one day, NOW!