Ever wonder why the temperature is 41°F? by Melissa Vaccaro

Holding is a point at which maintaining proper temperatures can help ensure that a food is safe to eat. It is the duty of the Person-in-Charge (PIC) to make sure food is held properly. Additionally, food employees must know the proper temperature for holding food, monitor the holding process, and record temperatures of foods during holding.
Temperature has a dramatic effect on how fast bacteria grow. The FDA Food Code requires that all cold time/temperature controlled for safety (TCS) foods be maintained at 41°F or below. When the temperature of food is above 41°F, it is in the temperature danger zone (41°F – 135°F) and bacteria grows rapidly to the point it can cause illness. Keeping TCS foods under cold temperatures will limit the growth of pathogens that may be present in or on the food and may help prevent foodborne illness.
Ever wonder why the temperature is 41°F? Microorganisms have a defined temperature range in which they grow best, with minimum, maximum, and optimum temperatures. Some like it hot, some like it cold. Many pathogens such as Listeria monocytogenes and Salmonella enteritidis have been studied. The good news is, the science has already been done for us and has led the FDA Food Code to require 41°F or below for all TCS foods, except for raw shell eggs, which can be held at 45°F. This temperature will restrict growth of these pathogens and slow them down.
Here are some cold holding reminders:
  • Hold cold TCS foods at 41°F or below.
  • Pre-chill ingredients for items to be served cold.
  • Schedule food production to minimize the time that food is maintained on the serving line.
  • Use batch preparation for cold items to minimize the time that ingredients and completed foods are at room temperature.
  • Monitor holding process for cold foods.
    • Check temperature of all cold holding units by placing a calibrated thermometer in the warmest part of the holding unit. The unit should be 41°F or below.
  • Check internal temperatures of cold food with a calibrated, clean, and sanitized thermometer.
    • Take at least two internal temperatures from each batch of food during holding.
    • Insert thermometer into the thickest part of the food, which usually is in the center.
    • Record the temperature and the time the temperature is checked.
  • Take corrective action if appropriate holding temperature of cold food is not met.
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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