hey, it's hot out there!

July 27, 2016 | EcoSure Food Safety Monitor

By Miriam Eisenberg, MS, RD, CP-FS

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As extreme hot weather seems to be covering the map, it is a good time to review with your staff some best practices to help keep cold food properly chilled at 41˚F (5˚C) or less in all cold holding equipment:

  • Keep your HVAC system properly cleaned and maintained including filters, fans and vents. Preventive maintenance visits can help your system work more efficiently. Being able to maintain a reasonable ambient temperature in the back-of-house impacts not only staff but also refrigeration operation.
  • Keep refrigeration equipment properly cleaned and maintained. Watch for ice build-up which will negatively impact compressor function.
  • Monitoring food products begins with delivery:
    • Check the operation and cleanliness of delivery vehicles. Drivers should not turn off refrigeration of the storage areas during deliveries.
    • Take sample temperatures of at least two refrigerated and one frozen items per delivery and also visually check that there are no signs of temperature abuse.
    • If your deliveries are toward the end of a route, be especially vigilant. In more remote locations, product may be on delivery trucks for several days.
  • Set coolers to 35-38˚F to allow some leeway to keep product below 41˚F (5˚C).
  • Keep walk-in coolers and freezers organized to receive deliveries and properly rotate products. Disorganization can lead to over loading and unnecessary clutter. 
  • Use your walk-in, the workhorse cooler, for the majority of cold holding. 
  • Thaw products in the walk-in cooler.
  • Monitor product temperatures in all cold-holding, especially product in the process of cooling and those with more exposure to ambient air and cooking areas such as cold lines, self-service buffets, open self-serve coolers and refrigerated drawers. Record cold-holding temperature and monitor any negative trends.
  • Often reach-in coolers also cool the cold prep lines above so don’t overfill the reach-in and place product in a way that won’t block airflow.
  • More closely monitor the amount of refrigerated foods being placed out for service. It is often safer to replace product more often than to over fill pans exposed to warmer temperatures. If maintaining cold product is proving to be problematic in any piece(s) of equipment, consider time as a Public Health Control to limit time above 41˚F (5˚C) to a four hour maximum.
  • Remember – at every step of the flow of food, take and record temperatures regularly and use corrective actions to keep food safe.