Skip to main content
California Department of Education Logo

Temperature Controls of Potentially Hazardous Food


Nutrition Services Division Management Bulletin
Purpose: Policy, Beneficial Information

To: Summer Food Service Program Sponsors

Number: NSD-SFSP-01-2008

Attention: Summer Food Service Program Sponsors

Date: October 2008

Subject: The Importance of Maintaining Proper Time and Temperature Controls of Potentially Hazardous Foods

Reference: California Health and Safety Code, Part 7; California Retail Food Code, sections 113871, 113966, 113998, 114000, and 114002.

This Management Bulletin (MB) provides guidance for Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) sponsors regarding the importance of controlling the amount of time potentially hazardous foods (PHF) are held at specific (and potentially dangerous) temperatures (known as time and temperature). As an SFSP sponsor, you have the responsibility to ensure that the food you serve is safe to consume and is handled in a manner that prevents the possibility of a food borne illness. The following information will assist you in preventing a food borne illness by understanding what a PHF is and how to properly control time and temperature of PHF.

Time and Temperature

Time and temperature are two of the most important factors to control in the prevention of a food borne illness. There are many steps during the process of preparing and serving food in which time and temperature must be controlled. Harmful microorganisms grow well in foods held between temperatures of 41 degrees Fahrenheit and 135 degrees Fahrenheit. This temperature range is also known as the Temperature Danger Zone (TDZ). The less time foods spend in the TDZ, the less time harmful microorganisms have to grow. Typically harmful microorganisms can grow to levels high enough to cause illness within four hours; therefore specific regulations in the California Retail Food Code related to the prevention of a food borne illness focus on reducing the amount of time foods remain in the TDZ. The following sections outline the requirements of time and temperature control during the preparation and service of PHF.

Types of Potentially Hazardous Foods

Many types of foods can become unsafe and cause people to become ill. Some foods, known as PHFs, are at higher risk for growing harmful microorganisms; it is these microorganisms that cause a food borne illness. The following foods are considered PHF and require proper control of time and temperature:

  • Milk and dairy products
  • Eggs (except those treated to eliminate microorganisms)
  • Meat (beef, pork and lamb)
  • Poultry
  • Fish and shellfish
  • Baked Potatoes
  • Heat-treated plant foods (rice, beans, and vegetables)
  • Tofu and other soy proteins
  • Sprouts and sprout seeds
  • Sliced melons and cut tomatoes
Ensuring Proper Control of Time and Temperature

Sponsors should be aware of good policies and procedures that can ensure the proper control of time and temperature of PHF. The following represents three ways you can control time and temperature:

  • Develop a monitoring system.
    • Assign duties to key personnel who are responsible for understanding the importance of monitoring time and temperature of PHF and are responsible for conducting monitoring activities.
  • Use proper tools.
    • Provide accurate thermometers and timers/clocks to key personnel as necessary to monitor both time and temperature.
  • Develop a recording system.
    • Prepare a written log for recording times and temperatures of PHF.
Cooking Potentially Hazardous Foods

In order to ensure that the foods you are cooking have reached the proper internal temperature required to reduce the potential for a food borne illness, two steps must occur. First, use a thermometer to take food temperatures; and second, cook foods to the required internal temperature for the specified length of time (see chart below):

Type of Food Minimum Internal Temperature Time
Fruits and Vegetables 135 degrees Fahrenheit 15 seconds
Grains
(rice, beans, pasta, potatoes)
135 degrees Fahrenheit 15 seconds
Commercially processed ready-to-eat foods (chicken nuggets, cheese sticks) 135 degrees Fahrenheit 15 seconds
Roasts (beef, veal, lamb) 145 degrees Fahrenheit 4 minutes
Steaks/Chops (beef, veal, lamb) 145 degrees Fahrenheit 15 seconds
Ground meats (other than poultry) 155 degrees Fahrenheit 15 seconds
Eggs (hot held for service) 155 degrees Fahrenheit 15 seconds
Ham 155 degrees Fahrenheit 15 seconds
Poultry (whole or ground) 165 degrees Fahrenheit 15 seconds
Reheated Foods 165 degrees Fahrenheit 15 seconds
Hot and Cold Holding of Potentially Hazardous Foods

Foods that are not immediately served after cooking, which are most commonly known as “held for service,” are at risk for time and temperature abuse. Whether or not you have sources of heat or refrigeration to keep foods within temperature range, it is important to monitor temperatures to prevent a food borne illness. The following outlines the proper procedures for holding PHF:

Hot Food

When a source of heat is available, hold hot foods at 135 degrees Fahrenheit or higher and check the temperature every four hours. If the temperature of the food at four hours is less than 135 degrees Fahrenheit, the food must be discarded.

It is permissible to hold hot food without temperature controls for up to four hours if the following conditions are met:

  • Food must be held at 135 degrees Fahrenheit or higher before the food is removed from the temperature control.
  • Label the food upon receipt with the time it must be discarded. The discard time is four hours after the food has been removed from the temperature control.
  • After the four-hour time limit, the food must have been served, consumed, or thrown away.
Cold Food

Hold cold foods at 41 degrees Fahrenheit or less and check the temperature every four hours. If the temperature of the food at four hours is greater than 41 degrees Fahrenheit, the food must be discarded.

It is permissible to hold cold food without temperature controls for up to six four hours if the following conditions are met: [Note: The word "six" in the preceding statement contains strikeout.]

  • Food must be held at 41 degrees Fahrenheit or less before the food is removed from the temperature control.
  • Label the food upon receipt with the time it must be discarded. The discard time is six four hours after the food has been removed from the temperature control. [Note: The word "six" in the preceding statement contains strikeout.]
  • The cold food must not exceed 70 degrees Fahrenheit before or while it is being served. If the temperature of the cold food reaches 70 degrees Fahrenheit it must be discarded. [Note: The preceding statement contains strikeout.]
  • After the six four-hour time limit, the food must have been served, consumed, or thrown away. [Note: The word "six" in the preceding statement contains strikeout.]

If you have any questions regarding this MB, please contact Lisa Melhouse, Nutrition Education Specialist, at 916-322-2488 or 800-952-5609, or by e-mail at lmelhouse@cde.ca.gov.

Questions:   Nutrition Services Division | 800-952-5609
Last Reviewed: Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Share this Page

Recently Posted in Nutrition

  • California Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program Br (PDF) (added 05-Feb-2016)
    This is the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program brochure.
  • FSMC Rebid List (XLS) (added 25-Jan-2016)
    The Food Service Managment Contracts and Vended Meal Contracts Rebid list formatted in Excel landscape legal size.
  • EC 49554 Certification of Compliance (DOC) (added 25-Jan-2016)
    School district form to certify compliance with CA Education Code Section 49554 when requesting contract with a private company for vended meals.
  • Indirect Costs in the CACFP and SFSP (added 20-Jan-2016)
    Manangement Bulletin CACFP-03-2016 and SFSP-03-2016, USDA Policy Memo SNP 30-2016, CACFP 16-2015, SFSP 18-2015: Indirect Costs in the Child and Adult Care Food Program and Summer Food Service Program.
  • 2016-17 CNP Reimbursement Rates (added 20-Jan-2016)
    Child Nutrition Program meal reimbursement rates.

  • Participant Eligibility Record for Adult Day Care (added 13-Jan-2016)
    Participant Eligibility Record for Adult Day Care.
  • Competitive Food Quick Ref-Charter or Private (added 11-Jan-2016)
    A resource to assist groups or individuals that sell foods and beverages to students, during the school day, on the school campus, outside of the school meal program.
  • Competitive Food Quick Reference-Public Schools (added 11-Jan-2016)
    A resource to assist groups or individuals that sell foods and beverages to students, during the school day, on the school campus, outside of the school meal program.
  • Professional Standards in the SNP (added 11-Jan-2016)
    Management Bulletin SNP-02-2016, USDA Policy Memo SP 39-2015: Final Rule-Professional Standards for State and Local School Nutrition Programs Personnel as required by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, Public Law 111-296.
  • Summer Food Service Program Information (updated 11-Jan-2016)
    Administrative and operational information and guidance for public and private non-profit organizations that participate in the program.