Getting to grips with food safety temperature checks

Are you struggling with the amount of paperwork floating round your kitchen?

We are talking about important documents which are usually covered in food and spillages, unfortunately it comes with the territory! It’s always that piece of paper that you desperately need to get you out of a sticky situation that get’s mislaid,  usually when the EHO is visiting or when you are following up a complaint.

Why do temperature monitoring?

Most food businesses owners and staff that I speak to know that they need to complete temperature monitoring and checks, record them and keep them in a safe place, but don’t always know why?

Here is a list of some of the reasons why it is important to do them:

  • Monitoring temperature checks is part of your food safety management system which you must have by law.
  • Checks are usually done at the critical points in the preparation and service of food to make sure food is safe
  • Can help you prove that you are controlling food safety
  • Can help identify equipment and maintenance issues
  • Can tell you if something is wrong and allow you to take action straight away
  • Can help with your ‘due diligence’ – in that you are doing everything properly

What temperatures do you need to check?

  • Cooking – particularly of high-risk food like chicken which if not cooked properly could make customer’s ill
  • Fridges and freezers
  • Cooling
  • Hot holding
  • Chilled food
  • Transport of food
  • Deliveries
  • And any others linked to your individual business

The legal stuff:

Critical temperature limits are usually in food law or best practice and have been validated to help keep you to keep food safe but only if you follow the rules. For example:

Therefor it is a good idea to set target levels for temperatures, for example keep fridges set at 0-5C to make sure that chilled food is always stored below the legal limit of 8C.

How can temperatures be recorded?

  1. On individual sheets

Pros:

  • Can be added to an existing system
  • Can be displayed in the kitchen as a prompt to staff
  • Usually completed manually
  • inexpensive

Cons:

  • Easily misplaced or lost
  • Get dirty or stained
  • Creates a lot of paperwork
  1. In a kitchen diary 

Pros:

  • All checks for each trading day are kept together
  • Can be completed manually or online
  • inexpensive

Cons:

  • Can be misplaced or lost
  • Get dirty or stained if completed manually
  1. Electronically using an automated system

Pros:

  • no paperwork
  • saves time if automated checks
  • can be complex for staff to use

Cons:

  • expensive to set up
  • need back up if system failure

How to do temperature checks?

You should check temperatures of the food using a calibrated probe. Probes should always be sanitized before and after use to make sure you do not cross contaminate other food.

Alternatively you can check some temperatures using digital displays or thermometers, for example fridges and freezers. You can also probe the food as a double check if you need to.

Delivery temperatures should be taken between packs, using an infra-red thermometer or checking the delivery vehicle to reduce the risk of cross contamination.

Top tip: how to calibrate temperature probes

Put the  probe in iced or boiling water. If the temperature is +/- 1C then either replace the probe or send it to the manufacturer to be recalibrated to make sure your temperatures are accurate. You should also record this temperature in your records.

Most importantly what ever method of temperature monitoring you decide on it is a ‘must do’ job. It is crucial to the success of your business to help prevent serving unsafe food to your customers ……which could land you in ‘hot water’!

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