There will always be a risk of microbiological hazards being present in food at one time or another. Bacteria is the most common microbiological hazard and some can produce toxins and spores which can cause illness. Bacteria require a suitable temperature (warmth), food, moisture and time to grow. Bacteria can grow very quickly in the right conditions.
Temperature control is one of the most effective means of reducing the risk of microbiological hazards causing illness. The key temperatures to be aware of are as follows:
- Food should be kept below 5oC and above 63 degrees C at all times, except when being prepared for cooking or serving. This temperature range is known as the ‘danger zone' and is the best temperature for bacteria to multiply.
- Refrigerators should operate between 1 degree C and 5 degrees C
- Freezers should operate between -18 degrees C and -24 degrees C
- Food should be cooked until the centre of the food reaches a minimum of 75 degrees C
- Food that is reheated must reach a temperature of 82 degrees C. Stews and liquid food should be reheated to boiling point.
- Food which is to be kept warm must be held at a temperature of at least 63 degrees C.
All kitchens should have a digital probe thermometer and disinfectant wipes for checking that the correct temperatures are reached. You must follow the manufacturer's instructions on how to calibrate and use the digital probe thermometer. All temperatures must also be recorded and the records kept in a safe place.
Temperature control is very important, particularly when handling and preparing high-risk foods such as cooked meats, meat products, dairy produce, eggs, shellfish and cooked rice. If cooking such products in advance, they must be cooled down quickly and refrigerated. If reheating, please follow the guidelines above on temperature control.
Raw meat for cooking is not a high-risk food because any bacteria present will be destroyed in the cooking process. More information about precautions that should be taken when handling and cooking raw meat is covered in the Food Handling and Personal Hygiene section below.