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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

Revised to delete strike-through language October 2018

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, 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 four hours if the following conditions are met:

  • 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 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.

If you have any questions regarding this MB, please contact Barbara Hedges, Child Nutrition Consultant, at 916-327-6071 or 800-952-5609, or by e-mail at BHedges@cde.ca.gov.

Questions:   Nutrition Services Division | 800-952-5609
Last Reviewed: Tuesday, September 22, 2020
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