Avoid food waste and save money: Hot Holding in Retail by Barry Parsons

The proper hot holding of food is not a difficult task; however, during an inspection, it is one item that tends to be a violation all too often. It is dangerous to leave food sitting out on a counter within the temperature danger zone or in a steam table/hot holding cabinet below the minimum hot holding temperature of 135°F. When this is found, it triggers a couple of questions.

  • Was the employee trained properly by attending one of our SURE food employee safety class and was the training documented?
  • Is failure to hold hot food properly just a normal practice accepted by management? You get what you expect after all.
  • Was the steam table or hot holding cabinet pre-heated early enough or was turning it on as last-minute thought?
  • Did someone take the actual final internal temperature of the food when it came out of the cooking equipment? (Which must be done and should be recorded to demonstrate the company is following the regulatory requirements)
  • When was the last time preventive maintenance (calibration) was performed on the thermostat?
  • When was the last time someone with a fresh set of eyes reviewed or updated your Standard Operating Procedures (SOP’s)?

 The Conference of Food Protection and ANSI certified training programs all teach the importance of holding food at least to the minimum internal temperature of 135°. The programs also teach the four-hour rule. It is known that any food being hot held should have the temperature taken at least every four hours to ensure its safety. Nevertheless, it is a best practice to test the food temperature with a clean, sanitized and calibrated thermometer every two hours. This will give you the opportunity to reheat all parts of the food to 165°F within two hours just one time. This practice avoids food waste and saves you money! Hot holding is a basic yet critical 101 rule industry must follow. Failure can cost you your business with just one foodborne illness.

The Annex of the FDA Model Food Code provides, in paragraph form, an easily understandable explanation of specific aspect of the code. Check out this page in the Annex.

Page 452, Annex 3 -Hot Holding Pathogens and National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods (NACMCF)

This blog is not intended to be a substitute for the user's judgement and common sense. Any errors are unintentional. 

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