Food Hygiene Regulations
The Food Hygiene (England) Regulations 2006 require that certain foods be kept at temperatures, which are either too hot or too cold to allow harmful bacteria to grow. Foods covered by this legislation are those which are likely to support the growth of harmful bacteria or their toxins – they are called “high risk” or “ready to eat foods” and they include:
- Dairy products including cream desserts, soft and semi-hard cheeses.
- Cooked products including those containing meat, eggs, fish and milk.
- Smoked or cured, ready to eat meat or fish.
- Prepared ready to eat foods.
- Uncooked or partly cooked pastry and dough products containing meat, fish or veges
If these foods are stored within the DANGER ZONE (8°C to 63°C) harmful bacteria can multiply to numbers capable of causing serious illness. These foods should be kept in refrigerated storage or be kept hot except for short periods whilst foods are being prepared or when food is awaiting service for immediate consumption.
The Regulations require that foods which require chilled storage, are kept at or below 8°C. Remember that the law refers to the temperature of the food and not the temperature of the fridge. Monitoring the air temperature using a fridge thermometer or digital probe thermometer (an electronic probe thermometer) can give an indication of product temperature and it is recommended that an air temperature of between 0 and 5°C is maintained.
The regulations require that if food is to be kept hot its temperature should be monitored to ensure it stays above 63°C. It is recommended that any hot food is initially heated or reheated to at least 75°C for 30 seconds. These temperatures should be monitored to ensure they are being achieved.
How to check temperatures
A number of different methods are available to enable fridge temperatures to be monitored. Catering equipment is often fitted with thermometers, which display the air temperature externally on a gauge. Small fridge thermometers can be kept inside fridges and freezers. Digital probe thermometers can be used to monitor the temperature in fridges and freezers and can be used to check the accuracy of other thermometers.
In fridges and freezers monitoring the air temperature can indicate whether or not the unit is working properly (remember that defrost cycles will temporarily raise the temperature).
Air temperature readings should always be taken from the warmest part of the fridge, this is usually the top of a conventional upright fridge or the returning air of a display cabinet.
If the air temperature is higher than 5°C taking the surface temperature of the food will give a good indication of the food itself. A probe should only be ed into foods if its temperature cannot be determined in any other way. If food does have to be probed, it is important to ensure that this operation does not cause contamination. The probe should be disinfected before use and cleaned after use. Special antibacterial probe wipes can be purchased for this purpose. If packaging materials are damaged by using the probe the food should be discarded.
Chilling food properly helps to stop harmful bacteria from growing. Some foods need to be kept chilled to keep them safe, for example food with a ‘use by’ date, cooked dishes and other ready-to-eat food such as prepared salads and desserts.
It is very important not to leave these types of food standing around at room temperature. So, make sure you do the following things:
- Check chilled food on delivery to make sure it is cold enough.
- Put food that needs to be kept chilled in the fridge straight away.
- Cool cooked food as quickly as possible and then put it in the fridge.
- Keep chilled food out of the fridge for the shortest time possible during preparation.
- Check regularly that your fridge and display units are cold enough. For more information on food safety regulations that affect your business, visit the links below.