Potentially hazardous foods must be maintained at or below 5°C in the case of cold foods and at or above 60°C in the case of hot foods.
When food is between 5°C and 60°C, harmful bacteria can multiply to levels that may lead to food poisoning. This zone between 5°C and 60°C is often referred to as the temperature danger zone.
There are some exceptions to this where food has to be stored outside of the temperature control (that is between 5°C and 60°C) however great care needs to be exercised when applying this exception.
The exception is referred to as the two hour four hour rule. If food has been outside of temperature control for up to 2 hours then it must be either used immediately, or placed back into the refrigerator or hot storage.
If the food has been outside of temperature control for between 2 and 4 hours, then it must be used immediately. It cannot be placed back under temperature control.
If the food has been outside of temperature control for more than 4 hours it must be thrown out. It cannot be used.
It is important to remember that when applying the two hour four hour rule, the time relates to the total time that particular food items have been outside of temperature control. For example, some ham has been purchased from a reputable supplier who proves their product has at all times been kept below 5°C. It is then delivered to your premises in a refrigerated vehicle. The driver of the vehicle shows you records indicating the ham has been kept below 5°C. The ham is then stored in your cold room at less than 5°C (which you have taken daily temperature checks of and recorded these). You can then apply the two hour four hour rule when using this ham.
You must provide written documentation when applying this rule – you must be able to prove how long that product has been outside or inside of temperature control. This would require written procedures. For example, if the ingredients for a ham salad were outside of temperature control for 2 hours during preparation, this time frame would be recorded so the ham salad could be placed back into the coolroom.
when applying this rule, you must be able to prove how long that product has been outside or inside of temperature control;
- You must provide written documentation.
- When the ham salad is taken out of the coolroom again it must be consumed within 2 hours.
- Once the time outside of temperature control has reached 4 hours, the food product must be thrown out.
In most circumstances therefore, it is most safe to simply ensure food is always under temperature control, particularly where you cannot be sure of the handling of the food prior to its arrival at your premises.