Two-Stage Cooling and Documentation by Barry Parsons



Following the two-stage cooling method is critical to ensure food is safe to eat as the process prevents/reduces the growth of pathogens. In retail, the FDA Model Code states that a Person-in-Charge must have knowledge of the principles of Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP). In many states, a retail operation does not have to have a written HACCP plan. The state of Maryland does require retail establishments to have HACCP plans.
 
A critical control point (CCP) in HACCP is defined as the last place to intervene to prevent the growth of pathogens. The cooling process would be a CCP. Failing to monitor the time and temperature during the two-stage cooling method can lead to pathogen growth and cause a foodborne illness. HACCP principles explain that a CCP must have a critical limit. The FDA Model Food Code explains that food must be cooled from 135°F to 70°F within two hours and then from 70°F to 41°F within four hours for a total of six hours. The first part of the rule cannot exceed two hours. If it does, the food is to be either reheated and recooled or destroyed. If the first stage of cooling is achieved in 1.5 hours instead of two hours, the extra half hour can be added on to the second stage for 4.5 hours, but the total must still equal 6 hours.
 
The monitoring of the time and temperatures throughout the process must be recorded so it can be verified that the process was followed correctly, and that the pathogen growth was prevented, and the food is safe. Verification is the act of ensuring that the process put in place is being followed. The documentation records of the time and temperature recorded during the process should be maintained because if you do not keep the documentation you cannot state you actually followed the regulated process. It is like the old saying goes, "if it is not documented, it is not done." If there is ever a question regarding your practices, you have no evidence that you actually followed through with the regulatory requirements. It is not what you say, but your documented actions that count.
 
The easiest example for the season is the production of large batches of chili. If you make a 40-quart stock pot of chili, break the batch down into 4 full size hotel pans about two inches deep. Lightly cover, do not seal, the hotel pans with foil and the chili does not need to be placed into the cooler right away. As long as the food is protected from contamination (foil) and the food is above 135°F, the food is safe. Remember the two-stage cooling method does not start until the food hits 135°F, which is the same as the minimum hot-holding temperature. Let some of the final cooking temperature escape into the large kitchen area and reduce the potential of heating up the cooler or other food. You do not want the food to sit out below the 135°F so play it safe and put the food in the cooler slightly above 135°F and then start your two-stage cooling process. To help achieve the first stage, use a cooling paddle to assist in the process.
 
Cooler weather means more warm, comforting meals so make sure you are properly cooling to keep your patrons safe. Enjoy the Fall weather!
 
 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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