Monitoring Food Temperatures

Monitoring refrigeration units.

Have you ever had a unit break down in the middle of the day?  How about a unit that just can’t seem to maintain food temperatures below 41°F?

Both present potential risks to food safety.  Proper monitoring of your units can avoid the costly choice of throwing food away that has become unsafe.

What is required by Code of Maryland Regulations (COMAR)?  Section 10.15.03.06 pertains to storage, service and transport of foods in retail establishments in Maryland.  Today we will focus on monitoring cold food storage only.

The internal temperature of the food must be maintained to avoid pathogenic bacteria and other microorganisms that could cause spoilage.  Most food must be held at 41°F or below except; shell eggs can be stored at 45°F or less, certain reduced oxygen packaged foods like crab meat should be stored at 38°F or less.

The temperature measuring device has 2°F markings, accurate within +- 2°F, calibrated at least annually, is easily readable, and located in the warmest area of unit where food is stored.

Anytime Temperature Control for Safety (TCS) foods or as COMAR calls them, Potentially Hazardous Food (PHF) goes above the required temperature for more than 4 hours the product must be discarded.

This is a summary of the regulations, for complete information read the regulation.

How often are you required to monitor foods?

Surprisingly, there is no regulation that states how often you must monitor foods.  You do need to make sure temperatures are maintained.  So that would infer that you should monitor every 4 hours so you can take the corrective action of throwing the food away.

How often do I recommend you monitor food temperatures?

I recommend that you monitor and record your refrigeration and cooler temperatures every 2 hours.  This will provide you with a verifiable temperature that can be used in case the unit experiences a problem.  The following are two similar examples with different outcomes

Example 1: You monitored the temperature at 12 PM and at 4 PM you discovered the product temperature to be at 57°F.  The only corrective action you can take is to discard the food.

Example 2: You monitored and recorded the temperature at 12 PM and then again at 2 PM.  At that time you discover the food temperature to be at 52°F.  You could move the food to another unit, perhaps a freezer and quick chill the product.  Check the temperature again at 4 PM to verify it is at 41°F or below.  If it is, you just saved your inventory!  The reason is because you had a verifiable temperature at 12 PM and could verify the food was not out of temperature for more than 4 hours.

Important to remember in example 2 is that the temperature was verifiable.  Had it not been recorded you would have needed to discard the food.  The code specifically states that food must be discarded if “The food has exceeded 41°F or more for more than 4 hours; or the time the food has been out of temperature is not verifiable”

How should you monitor temperatures?

You could take the internal temperature of each food in your unit but that would be time consuming and possibly increase the risk of cross contamination.  Monitoring is typically accomplished by having a thermometer in the warmest part of the unit.  I do not recommend using the digital readout on the outside of the unit.  If you notice the lead is typically in one of the coldest parts of the unit, not the warmest.  Try this experiment.  During peak times check what the reader says and then check the internal thermometer and the internal temperature of the food.  Most of the times there will be a difference in these temperatures.  In my experience sometimes 7°F or more.

Remember the thermometer used for monitoring needs to be accurate +-2°F and have markings every 2°.   COMAR requires it be calibrated at least annually however, if it is dropped or undergoes any kind of abuse it should be checked for accuracy.    One simple way to check the stand-up or hanging type is place several in the same unit and make sure they are all the same. Confirm temperature by checking the internal temperature of food that has been in the unit.  It should be with in a degree or two.

If you have any questions about monitoring your temperatures and corrective actions please contact us, we are here to help.

PFA’s in compostable carry out containers

The internet is blowing up about Chipotle and their bowls.  Guess they are an easy target since they have had some mis-steps in the last few years.  However, I feel like they deserve a little pass on this one.

Let me explain.  I did a little research and read the article by Joe Fassler.  He is The New Food Economy’s features editor. He was the one that initiated Notre Dame Chemist Graham Peaslee to test the containers of 14 different locations from 8 different restaurants in NY city.   What they found was that in all of the different samples there was high levels of Florine.  The presence of Florine indicates the bowls were treated with PFA’s.  PFA’s can be linked to a long list of health problems including cancer.

The article that Mr Fassler wrote is long and in excellent detail, so I am not going to rehash his article in my words.  You can read it here:  https://newfoodeconomy.org/pfas-forever-chemicals-sweetgreen-chipotle-compostable-biodegradable-bowls/

However, here are a few takeaways I learned;

  • Of the 8 different locations Chipotle was the second highest offender of levels of Florine. Dig had the highest levels.  Sweet Green was the lowest.  Odd that Chipotle and Sweet Green were called out specifically.
  • Although more testing and information about the bowls would need to be obtained, based on the Florine levels the bowls are most likely within FDA guidelines for PFA’s.
  • PFA’s can be transferred from one surface to another.
  • PFA’s allow the plant-based bowls to be used with greasy, wet and hot foods.
  • PFA’s are not biodegradable and will live on forever.
  • All the bowls were certified as “compostable” by certifying company BPI.
  • BPI is changing standards and of Jan 1, 2020. Any bowls treated with PFA’s will no longer pass certification as compostable.
  • When bowls are composted the compost can then be affected. Transferring the PFA’s to food supply during planting and growing.
  • When bowls are thrown in the landfill the PFA’s can leach into water and even after water treatment the PFA’s could be found in our drinking water.
  • PFA’s can be found in many other non-food sources especially fire-resistant carpeting.

My biggest concern is not with the restaurants using theses bowls but with the manufacturers that make them.  They knew they were adding PFA’s, they new that they are not biodegradable.  How was it that they were certified compostable and marketed as such?  There is no other alternative to the clam shells or Styrofoam on the market at this time.  What is a carry out to do when the public and now some cities demand not using Styrofoam ?

 

 

Monitoring cold and hot holding temperatures

How often do you check your cold hold and hot hold temperatures?

In food service we must be careful to maintain proper temperatures on temperature control for safety foods (TCS), sometimes referred to potentially hazardous foods (PHF’s).  Temperature control will control the growth of pathogenic bacteria and other microorganisms that could cause spoilage.

Regulation

Remember, most cold TCS food must be maintained at a temperature of 41°F or below.  Some reduced oxygen packaged food and pasteurized crab meat must be held at 38°F or below.  Hot foods must be maintained at a temperature of 135°F or above for no more that 4 hours.

Monitoring

Monitoring of these temperatures is critical.  How often you monitor depends on what you would want possible corrective actions to be.   If you choose to monitor every 4 hours and you discover the temperature of cold food to be above 41°F or hot food being held below 135° F, the only corrective action will be to discard.  However, if you monitor every 2 hours you may have sufficient time to take a corrective action that will save your food.

Corrective Action

For cold food you can remove from unit that is not maintaining temperature, quick chill in a different unit or freezer and get temperature down to 41°F or below.  Hot food that is below 135°F can be quickly reheated to 165°F or above and your 4 hours starts over.

There is a BUT!  This only works if the original temperature reading is verifiable.  That means it must have been recorded on the product package or in a log book.  The saying goes, “if you didn’t document, you didn’t do it”.

Here is an example:  You placed some chicken soup on hot hold at 12 PM.  You record temperature and place a sticker on the holding pot.  The temperature was recorded at 155°F.  At 3 PM a customer complains the soup is cold, you check the temperature and discover the soup is at 100°F.  You quickly place soup in a stock pot and reheat.  You just saved the soup.  But had the temperature not been recorded at 12 PM you could not have taken this corrective action and would have had to discard the soup. 

Another example:  At 10 AM you check the temperature of you walk in by looking at the thermometer hanging in the warmest part of the unit.  It is 38°F, perfect.   Around 1:30 PM an employee mentions that the unit feels a little warm.  You check and the temperature is 57 °F!  Oh no!  But since you didn’t write the temperature down it is not verifiable and the TCS food in the walk-in should be discarded.   

Same example but this time you recorded the temperature, you check the unit at 12 PM and discovered the unit was 48°F.  You immediately call for service, remove TCS food, place in other units for a quick chill, check the temperature of the food at 4PM and it is all 41°F or below and you just saved a lot of money by taking the time to check your cold units every two hours and recording the temperature.

 

Can your beverage make you sick?

Have you ever noticed your bartender doing some unsafe practices when making your drink and thought, “It’s cool the alcohol will kill it!”.

You may be onto something when it comes to bacteria.  Certain amounts of alcohol can kill the bad stuff in our gut!  But wait, there is something you should know.

Although wine and spirits have long been used for their alcohol properties to kill bacteria on surfaces you would need to consume a high enough percentage of well over the average mixed drink of 10% alcohol to prevent bacteria from causing foodborne illness in your gut.  The most effective would be in the 80% range, which would be most spirits drank straight.  The bad news is the damage you would do to your gastrointestinal system could cause vomiting, diarrhea, and organ damage.  One study did find that drinking one glass a red wine a day can be good for your gut.  The specific properties of wine seem to be just right to keep the bad bacteria at bay while not destroying the good bacteria and not doing damage to your organs.

Looks like using alcohol to kill bacteria isn’t such a good idea. The news is no better when looking at the effect of alcohol on Norovirus.  Alcohol will not kill Norovirus.  That is right.  You heard it here.  Alcohol will not kill Norovirus.

In 2017, there was a total of 841 reported cases of illness from drinking beverages in a restaurant.  623 cases were from Norovirus.  Norovirus is a virus that only needs about 10-12 cells to make you sick. It grows in your gut, not on food.

Okay, I can hear you thinking, “841 cases that is it?   I will roll the dice!”.  The problem is that most illnesses do not get reported.  Think about it, do you report to the health department every time you get vomiting and diarrhea? NO! The actual number of cases is much higher.

So how can a beverage become contaminated with Norovirus or bacteria?  It can all go back to the bartender.

Bartenders handle money, touch surfaces other guest touch and, quite frankly, hardly ever wash their hands.

These surfaces can contain microscopic fecal matter from customers that do not wash hands after using the restroom.   That fecal matter can then be transferred to your drink!  YUCK!

Have you ever witnessed your bartender making any of these mistakes?

  • Picking up the glass from the rim and not side of cup, then you drink from the rim.
  • Placing things in the ice bin that are not ice, like opened beer, mixers, cups or hands.
  • Scooping the glass through the ice, this is a big risk of the glass or plastic cup chipping and causing physical harm.
  • Items falling in the ice bin. I once saw a customer toss a soiled napkin, missing the trash can it went into the ice bin, the bartender picked it out and went on their way to making a drink.
  • Handling garnishes like lemons, oranges, limes, melon and cucumbers with dirty hands. Tongs and muddler should be used!

Remember all this can spread those nasty feces and cause you to have vomiting and diarrhea.  So maybe it wasn’t the food you at the establishment after all…

Easter Time Egg Questions

Easter is almost here!  What a fun time coloring and decorating hard-boiled eggs with friends and family.

Easter Eggs

But have you ever wondered about how to safely handle your hard-boiled eggs? Below are some of the top questions I get asked during the ServSafe Manager Training.

How can eggs make you sick?

The pathogen of concern is Salmonella.  Salmonella (nontyphoidal) is the number 2 pathogen that causes foodborne illness in the US and the number 1 that causes hospitalization and death.  The CDC estimates over 1 million illnesses a year.  79,000 of those come from of Salmonella Enteritidis which comes directly from improperly handled eggs.  People that are infected will usually become ill 12-72 hours after consuming the bacteria.  Symptoms include diarrhea, fever, abdominal cramps and vomiting.  People with weakened immune systems are at a greater risk.

How does Salmonella affect a regular shell egg?

The bacteria is carried in the fecal matter of the hen.  It can be introduced to the egg shell when the hen is laying the egg.  The bacteria can enter through the porous shell of the egg.  The Salmonella Enteritidis can also be introduced to the egg before the shell is formed in the intestinal track of the hen.

Why are raw eggs in some countries not refrigerated?

The production process is different in the US from European countries, because of this the USDA requires producers to wash and sanitize the egg before selling.  This creates an environment where air and bacteria can more easily pass through the shell. Therefore, temperature control is required.

Do hard-boiled eggs need to be refrigerated? 

The CDC, USDA, Egg Board and FDA consumer guidelines all agree after an egg is hard-boiled the surface even more porous.  The recommendation is that eggs be refrigerated at 40°F or below for no more than 7 days.  The only source of information that is different is the FDA food code for retail food establishments.  Raw shell eggs can be stored at 45°F or below.  Water cooled eggs must be stored at 41°F or below and as stated in Annex 3 Public Health Reason / Administrative guidelines 3-501.14, air cooled eggs are no longer a TCS food.

“Hard-boiled eggs with shell intact may be cooled in ambient air and are not considered to be a time/temperature control for safety food after cooling. Hard-boiled eggs may be cooled in drinking water but are considered to be a time/temperature control for safety food after cooling because pathogens, which may be present in the water, may pass through the egg shell during cooling”

Should you eat eggs that have been used for hiding?

Yes and No.  As long as the egg has not been left at room temperature for more than 2 hours and the egg is washed off before placing back in refrigeration you should be safe.  However, it would be safer to use other items like plastic reusable eggs for hiding.

Additional Resources:

https://www.fda.gov/downloads/Food/GuidanceRegulation/RetailFoodProtection/FoodCode/UCM595140.pdf

https://www.foodsafety.gov/keep/charts/eggstorage.html

https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/egg-products-preparation/shell-eggs-from-farm-to-table/

Baltimore City sewage and the Chesapeake Bay watershed

Chesapeake Bay BridgeRaw sewage is flowing into our streams and rivers and eventually to the Chesapeake Bay.  Where is this sewage coming from?  A key source is an antiquated storm water and sewage system for Baltimore City.  In 2002 the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) sued Baltimore City and an original consent degree to correct overflow of raw sewage was filed.  There was a 2016 deadline for Baltimore City to correct existing problems.  Although some progress was made, the deadline passed and there were still sever deficiencies.  A modified decree was approved October 6, 2017 that extended the time allowed to correct problems.  It is broken down in two Phases.  First phase must be completed by 2021 and second phase by 2030.

During the first phase 83% of the sanitary sewage overflows are to be corrected.  Baltimore City takes in over 250 million gallons of water a day and sometimes the system can not handle the load.  The happens especially during wet conditions.  To make matters worse, built into the system are intentional overflow structures.  They are called Sanitary Sewage Overflow (SSO)Structures.  They are “vents” for the system.   When the system was developed in the early 1900’s it was considered state of the art.  However, in today’s standards it is substandard way of handling excessive amounts of storm and sewage water.

Many of these SSO structures have been eliminated.  However, there are still 12 currently identified in the latest report1 from the city.

Here are some staggering numbers.  In the 4th quarter of 2018 over 9.7 million gallons of water containing sewage entered the watershed from sanitary sewer overflows.  However, the numbers from the SSO structures are alarming.  Over 56 Million gallons of water containing raw sewage entered the watershed! This typically occurs during heavy rains.

Discharged water can contain harmful pathogens that can cause illness. When humans come in contact with contaminated water they should thoroughly wash the area with soap and water.  When purchasing shellfish, make sure they are coming from an approved source. Pathogens like Norovirus or Hepatitis A can be in shellfish we consume. You can contract these viruses regardless if the shellfish is cooked. Always ask your seafood retailer to see the shell stock tags.  They show the area the shellfish were taken from.  If they do not have a shell stock tag – DO NOT PURCHASE.  It is required by health department law that the tag be with the product until it is sold.

Chemical toxins are a concern as well.  During heavy rains ground water that contains pesticides and other chemicals enters the storm water system then that water could be released from SSO structures at streams and rivers.  Pharmaceuticals that are flushed in toilets have been found in water from SSO.

Chemical toxins can accumulate in older fish and especially in bottom feeders affecting the health of humans.  The mustard in crabs caught in certain waters should be avoided.  View the Maryland Fish Consumption Advisory report located here: https://mde.maryland.gov/programs/Marylander/fishandshellfish/Pages/fishconsumptionadvisory.aspx

Sewage and run off should concern everyone that enjoys the bay.  Whether it is for swimming, recreational or commercial fishing, or just enjoying the wonderful views and wildlife that it gives us.  Help support a healthy system by not flushing anything that could clog the pipes like feminine products or “flushable” wipes.  Do not put anything down as drain that could harm the system, including fats oils and grease (FOG), pharmaceuticals, old paint, chemicals or anything that you would not want in the bay.

https://publicworks.baltimorecity.gov/sites/default/files/MCD%20Quarterly%20Report%2005.pdf

Retail: Is your food safety management system healthy?

Food Safety Management System

Food safety management system

When a facility has a functioning Food Safety Management System (FSMS), team members perform better, and customers will receive a consistent message when visiting.

In Maryland a HACCP plan is required for every moderate and high priority facility when they start up.  Often, they become forgotten until a health inspector asks to review it.  A HACCP plan should not be looked at as “just another requirement”.  A well written HACCP plan should be part of your overall food safety management system and should be part of your day to day operations.  However,  HACCP is only the beginning of your full Food Safety Management System.

What is a FSMS?

The short answer is;  Team members understanding,  consistently following and documenting the processes and procedures you have in place to minimize the risk of contamination of food.

Let’s take a more in-depth look at what your system would look like.

Commitment

The first step in creating your Food Safety Management System is to have a commitment to food safety.   No matter what your brands message is your team needs to understand that without food safety you cannot provide a consistent message to your customers.  This starts from the top down.  When team members think the “bottom line” and sales is all you care about food safety will not be a priority.  Unfortunately, the two go hand in hand.

SOP’s

Next establish your Standard Operating Procedures (SOP’s).  This would include; your purchasing program that ensures your food is from a safe source, personal hygiene program, employee illness, cleaning and sanitizing program, how your facility avoids cross contamination, and establishing time and temperature controls to avoid bacterial growth.  The person writing the SOP’s need to have a good understanding of food safety and the current practices and procedures of the facility.  This is the core of preventing contamination to food.

Hazard Analysis

After your SOP’s are established you must look at every menu item and determine where a biological hazard could occur.  These are called critical control points.  In a Maryland retail food facility this would be steps in the process like cooking, cooling, reheating and hot holding.   Again, the person doing the hazard analysis must have a good understanding of food safety risks.  There are special considerations when the facility does certain practices like; using time as a public health control, cooks using sous vide, does any reduced oxygen packaging, uses additives or preservatives, cures food like bacon, displays seafood, squeezes juice or offers live shellfish in a display like a lobster tank.

Food Process Charts

Using data from the Hazard Analysis, create the food process charts.  The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene offers four methods of creating charts.  I prefer to use method #2.  I feel that it is the easiest for food handlers to understand and follow along.   For every CCP identified in the Hazard Analysis you must list the critical limit, how monitoring will take place, what corrective action you should take if there is a deviation in the critical limit and how will you verify the monitoring took place.

Training

Congratulations!  You now have a HACCP plan.  Now we need to make sure that team members are on the same page.  That is where training come in.   Training should be job specific and ongoing.  Divide your facility into stations, for instance, prep, expo, servers, warewashing, etc.   Review your SOP’s and make sure you include all necessary points in the training.    Remember, everyone in your facility should be trained in personal hygiene and employee illness.  Training can be computer based, group, one on one or a combination.  I believe the best training starts with computer-based or group training and then one on one with a qualified team member providing the training.  During training, be sure to correct the team member when doing something incorrectly. This can be done gently and politely but now is not the time to worry about hurt feelings.

Monitoring and Verification

Our system would not be complete without making sure that it is working.  We do this through monitoring the critical limits established in the food charts and monitoring team members to ensure that all SOP’s are being followed as well.  Monitoring is an action, for instance, it could be a visual observation or actually taking a temperature reading of cooked food.   Verification occurs when monitoring is documented through charts and logs.  The team member performing the task documents the result.  Managers must review these logs and documents to ensure the system is working the way it should.

For instance, if a team member had to cook the chicken longer than the procedure states they would document this as a corrective action.  Managers then review the corrective action documents and can then investigate why the corrective action had to be taken.  Perhaps, they deep fryer is not working correctly, or the team member placed too much chicken at one time in the basket.  Management can make corrections by either repairing equipment or retraining the team member.

Revise

When you make menu, equipment or structural changes the entire system needs to be reevaluated.  Maryland requires your HACCP be revised every 5 years or when significant changes have taken place.

You think the last place you ate made you sick? Here is what to do.

Social media can be an excellent source to share information.  But when bad information is shared it can unfairly harm a business’s reputation.

I often see posts where someone claims that they became sick or got food poisoning from a restaurant.   The problem is most often you did not get sick from the last thing you ate.  It just may have been your bodies “tipping point” of when the vomiting and or diarrhea starts.

Take a look at this chart, it lists the top 6 pathogens as identified by the CDC1.  I have included estimated number of cases, transmission, incubation period, duration and symptoms.  Although this is just a quick overview of these pathogens it will help you see that each pathogen is different from each other.  Remember there are approximately 40 pathogens that can cause illness in humans.

 

Pathogen Mean estimated number of cases each year. How do humans typically get sick. Onset or incubation period before symptoms appear Duration of your illness Symptoms
Norovirus 20 million Ready to eat foods or by drinking contaminated beverages.  Touching a surface and putting your hand in your mouth could also be a source.  Only a few cells are necessary to cause illness. 12-48 hours 1-3 days Diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, stomach pains.  Sometimes fever and body aches
Campylobacter 1.3 million Most illnesses likely occur due to eating raw or undercooked poultry, or to eating something that touched it. Some are due to contaminated water, contact with animals, or drinking raw (unpasteurized) milk.

Only a small number of cells is needed to cause illness.  A single drop of poultry juice can contain enough cells!

2-5 days 1 week Diarrhea (often bloody), fever, cramping, nausea, vomiting
Salmonella 1.2 million Can be found in many foods, including sprouts and other vegetables, eggs, chicken, pork, fruits, and even processed foods, such as nut butters, frozen pot pies, chicken nuggets, and stuffed chicken entrees. 12-72 hours 4-7 days Diarrhea, fever, cramps
Clostridium Perfringens 1 million Beef, poultry, gravies, and dried or pre-cooked foods.  Especially those left out for too long during cooling. 6-24 hours 24 hours Diarrhea, cramping, usually there is no fever or vomiting
Shigella 500,000 Found in human feces, so any contact with feces from a person that had shigella can become contaminated very easily, even weeks after they are better.  This transmission could happen when changing a sick baby’s diaper, during sex or eating foods that person touched without proper hand-washing.   It only takes a small number of cells to cause illness. 1-2 days 5-7 days Diarrhea, fever, stomach cramping
Staphylococcus Aureus (Staph) 300,000 Ready to eat foods that require refrigeration that have been handled by someone that is a carrier of Staph.  25% of healthy adults are carriers in their nose or infected cuts.  Contaminated food is left at unsafe temperatures for too long.  Cooking will typically kill the bacteria but sometimes a toxin is formed and those cannot be destroyed. 30 minutes – 6 hours 1 day Nausea, vomiting, cramps, most have diarrhea but not always.

As you look at the data, you see that the only pathogen that causes illness right after eating is Staph.  There are 300,000 estimated cases a year.  That is still a large number of people getting sick from improper handling of food, but statistically you are more likely to be ill from another pathogen.

What does this mean?

Do NOT immediately blame the last place you ate and publicly shame them.   I am in no way dismissing your illness and how bad you felt.  But making false accusations can be very harmful to someone already in a grueling business.

What should you do?

First and foremost, take care of yourself.  If you experience symptoms of foodborne illness, such as diarrhea or vomiting, drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration.

Then report the illness, doing so helps alert the health department of a possible outbreak.

They will likely do an investigation including asking you what your exact symptoms are and what foods you ate in at least the last 7 days.  They may also ask you go to the doctors to be tested.  A doctor is the only sure way that your illness can be diagnosed.

If you don’t feel it is necessary to make a report here is the recommendations from the CDC2 of when you should seek medical attention:

  • High fever (temperature over 101.5°F, measured orally)
  • Blood in stools
  • Frequent vomiting that prevents keeping liquids down (which can lead to dehydration)
  • Signs of dehydration, including a marked decrease in urination, a very dry mouth and throat, or feeling dizzy when standing up.
  • Diarrhea that lasts more than 3 days

But remember, unless you have the illness diagnosed, understand the incubation period, think of what you ate that is typically associated with that illness during that time period and make a report, please do not blame a restaurant for your illness.  Remember, the illness could have come from your own home.  Be informed. Be smart.

 

  1. gov/foodborneburden/pdfs/scallan-estimated-illnesses-foodborne-pathogens.pdf
  2. gov/foodsafety/symptoms.html

Time as a control for food safety.

Do you use time as a control?

Are you wondering what that means?

Here are some examples of when my clients have successfully used time as a control on TCS foods;

  • Breading mixes that are in almost constant use. You may be breading items like fish or chicken every 15-30 minutes and refrigerating the breading isn’t practical.
  • Catering or displays of food.
  • A cold holding station does not maintain 41°F or below during peak times.
  • Cooked pizza displayed and being sold by the slice but 135°F is not being maintained.

These are just a few times when you may need to use time rather than temperature to control the safety of your food. Remember from the food safety training class you learned that food left in the temperature danger zone (41°F – 135°F) for more than 4 hours is discarded. This is because bacteria can grow to levels that can make the customer sick after this time period.

So, using this principle we can use time as a control, rather than temperature. This is sometimes called “time as a public health control”.

The following information is for Maryland retail food facilities, remember that your county/city may have different regulations and you should always follow those rules.  The basic rules that you will need to follow are:

  • You must obtain written permission from the local health department. This means it MUST be in your HACCP plan as a critical control point for that food product.
  • You must have verification procedures in place. Either have a log or time stamp the product container with the time it was removed from temperature control and the time it must be discarded.
  • There needs to be procedures in place to make sure the food is discarded at or before the 4 hours.

As you can see there may be valid times when using time as a control could be very beneficial.

If you have any specific questions about this topic or any other questions about food safety, please contact our office at 410-687-1015 and we will be happy to help.

The code this is based on is listed in COMAR 10.15.03.08 Use of time-only with potentially hazardous foods. The above information is advisory in nature only.

Washing your chicken is dangerous

Did you know that there is no federal regulation that for zero tolerance of Salmonella and Campylobacter on the chicken you purchase?Raw Chicken

That is right, your chicken could and probably is swimming in potentially harmful bacteria.  There is an initiative to reduce the amounts that are present but feds are not considering a zero tolerance policy at this time.

So how can you prevent these bacteria from wreaking havoc on your customers or family? 

Avoid cross contamination

  • Do not wash your chicken in a sink.  There is no need to wash chicken. You only increase the chance of spreading these pathogens all over your kitchen especially if you use a spray hose.
  • If you must rinse chicken place in bowl, filled with water, gently place chicken in bowl. Agitate and drain off water.

Wash your hands

  • Hand-washing after handling raw chicken with warm or hot water, plenty of soap and vigorous scrubbing will reduce the risk that you transfer pathogens to other surfaces in your kitchen.

Clean and sanitize

  • Using a good detergent wash areas that the chicken has touched.
  • Rinse with clean water and then sanitize using an effective solution.

Avoid Temperature abuse

  • Cook chicken to an internal temperature of 165°F and you will destroy those harmful bacteria. Don’t forget to promptly refrigerate foods after cooking to avoid other pathogens from causing problems.