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Food safety advice for businesses

Temperature control

Controlling the temperature of food is extremely important in ensuring that food is safe to eat, and you must ensure that food is always cooked, cooled, chilled or reheated properly to minimise the risk of harmful levels of bacteria in the food that you sell.

Meat products are typically regarded as high risk, but dried goods such as rice and pulses and vegetable and salads are also likely to contain bacteria that may grow if the food is subject to poor temperature control.  Perishable food should always be kept out of the danger zone of 8 - 63ºC to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria.

Cooking and reheating

In raw foods, such as meat, fruit and vegetables, high levels of bacteria may be present due to contamination with soil or due to the preparation process.  It is important that food is cooked thoroughly to a core temperature of at least 75ºC for at least two minutes to kill the bacteria.

One way to check whether the food has been cooked thoroughly would be to use a probe thermometer, but you must also take care that probe thermometers do not contaminate or taint the food being probed.  You can do this by cleaning and disinfecting them before use with ready to eat food.  Where antibacterial wipes are used to do this, they must be suitable for use with food.

It is also recommended that you keep a record of checks that you make. It is good practice to check and record at least two or three high-risk food temperatures per day.

Chilling

Chilling food does not kill bacteria, but it does stop them from growing to harmful levels.  Because of this, it is a legal requirement that perishable foods should be kept refrigerated at 8ºC or below. Frozen food should ideally be kept at a temperature at or below -18ºC.

It is good practice to check and record fridge and freezer temperatures at least once per day. If a fridge cannot keep food below 8ºC, it must be serviced or replaced.

Cooling

The legislation states that foods must be cooled as quickly as possible.  Methods such as reducing portion size, spreading food on an open tray or using ice can help to cool food quickly before it is refrigerated, and you should aim to cool foods to below 8ºC within 90 minutes.

Hot holding

If food is to be held hot, it must be cooked to at least 75ºC for two minutes and then held at a temperature at or above 63ºC. This is a legal requirement and it is good practice to check whether foods that are being held hot are at or above 63ºC on a regular basis.

More information

The Food Standards Agency website has lots of advice to help you.