Monday, August 28, 2017

Beat That Summer Heat

We have officially entered the “dog days” of summer. With that come cooler nights, preseason football and those all-important end of summer activities.  Even though the average temperature is dropping and the rains have returned, it’s important to remember that we are not out of the woods yet.  There are still plenty of hot days left in the year and there is still a pressing need to focus on “cold holding”!

Of course, that is not what I mean by cold holding.  Cold holding refers to keeping foods that are time and temperature controlled for safety purposes below the temperature danger zone.  Food that is protected by proper cold holding should always have an internal temperature of 41°F (5°C) or below.  Throughout the year, cold hold violations are the most common violation that is observed by the retail food inspectors at Jefferson County Public Health.  Most of these violations can be avoided by taking the preventive measures mentioned below:

1. Temperature logs

Keeping logs of the temperature controlled food items in a retail food establishment can be highly beneficial for 2 main reasons.  First, having firsthand knowledge of the efficiency at which each refrigerator is operating can give a strong indication of when routine maintenance is required.  Additionally, keeping track of these temperatures can also serve the function of identifying how long the temperature controlled foods within a refrigerator have been in the temperature danger zone.  The “danger zone” is the temperature range that food-borne bacteria love and they can rapidly grow.  Knowing how long a temperature controlled for safety food has been off temperature is helpful when determining corrective actions.

2. Corrective Actions

Foods that are temperature controlled for safety should not be in the danger zone for longer than four hours.  If foods are found to be off temperature for less than four hours, they must be cooled down quickly.  Ice can be added into or around a food item to cool it quickly, or if foods are in a commercial reach-in cooler, they should be moved to the walk-in refrigerator.  It is good to remember that reach-in coolers are designed to hold foods that are already 41°F or below. They are not designed to adequately cool foods down.      

3.       Speaking of ice…

Ice can be used to temporarily control the temperature of food; however, it must be used properly. Although it looks pretty, the ice used in the picture to the right is only providing temperature control for the food on the very bottom of the dish. The food at the top would have an elevated internal temperature. When used appropriately, the ice should be in contact with as much of the food as possible. The picture below is a better example of ice used as temperature control. 

Below is a great example from a food establishment that had to come up with a back-up plan when the salad bar went down. This is Active Managerial Control at work!  Taking action to control foodborne illness risk factors.  Thank you to Lana of Sava Catering for allowing us to share her post.

      4. Routine Maintenance

Our final advice on maintaining proper cold holding temperatures is to keep up with routine maintenance of equipment.  Mechanical refrigeration (much like any machine) requires maintenance at a frequency that depends on its use. The more it gets used, the more maintenance it will likely need. This maintenance can include more involved processes such as compressor service, but can also include more simple tasks such as gasket replacement and cleaning. No matter the level of level of complexity, routine maintenance can help get the most out of commercial equipment. 

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