Violation #3 - Food Temperature Control

Most food poisonings are associated with foods held at temperatures between 41-135°F for extended periods of time. Public health inspections stress the importance of temperature control of potentially hazardous food.

A. Temperature Control Procedures: Rapidly Cool Foods to 41ºF or Less

Critical Violation
Proper cooling means lowering the temperature of the food quickly enough to prevent bacterial growth. Taking too long to cool off cooked foods is a frequent cause of foodborne illness. During lengthy cooling, disease-causing bacteria may grow in potentially hazardous foods. Avoid letting food stay for long periods of time at growth-promoting temperatures for bacteria, or 70-120° F.

If food isn't cooled from 135° F to 70° F in 2 hours or less, and then from 70°F to 41°F in 4 hours or less, enough bacteria may grow to cause a foodborne illness.

Restaurants are required to cool food within timeframes based on how fast bacteria grow if food becomes re-contaminated. By meeting these cooling time expectations, disease-causing bacteria won't grow to dangerous levels, even if sanitation is less than ideal.

B. Temperature Control Procedures: Rapidly Reheat to 165ºF or Greater

Critical Violation
If food becomes hot enough during cooking, most disease-causing bacteria and viruses will be destroyed. One exception is a type of bacteria that can form heat-resistant spores (e.g., Clostridium perfringens). However, cooked food can become re-contaminated after cooking with bacteria from hands, utensils, coughing, sneezing, etc.

C. Temperature Control Procedures: Hot-hold at 135ºF or Greater

Critical Violation
Bacterial growth and possible toxin production by some bacteria can occur in potentially hazardous foods that remain at temperatures between 41-135° F for extended periods of time. Bacterial growth is greatly reduced when food temperatures reach 120°F, and it is almost completely inhibited at 135°F.

D. Temperature Control Procedures: Required Cooking Temperature

Critical Violation
Thorough cooking of foods also provides a high degree of assurance that any harmful microorganisms that may be present in the food will be destroyed. Cooking temperature requirements are based in part on the biology of the pathogen most often associated with the food being cooked. Different species of microorganisms have different susceptibilities to heat. Cooking can be the most effective step in eliminating microorganisms if foods are cooked to:

  • Poultry and Stuffed Meats—165° F
  • Ground Meats—155° F
  • Game Meats—155° F
  • Eggs and Fish—145° F
  • Pork—155° F
  • Rare Roast Beef—130° F

E. Temperature Control Procedures: Cold-hold at 41ºF or Less

Critical Violation
The rate of bacterial growth and possible toxin production by some bacteria can be greatly reduced when foods are held at temperatures of less than 41° F. This cold-holding temperature does not generally kill the bacteria that may be present in food, but it will slow or inhibit their growth.

F. Temperature Control Equipment: Food Thermometer (Probe-type)

Critical Violation
Because food temperature control is so critical in assuring food safety, all food establishments must have and use an accurate thermometer to check food temperatures. Food product thermometers are to be scaled 0-220°F. They must be accurate to +/-2°F. By using a thermometer, food workers need to verify that foods are being properly cooled, that they are reheated to 165° F, that they are cooked to the required temperatures, and that they are held hot above 135°F.

G. Temperature Control Equipment: Adequate Equipment to Maintain Food Temperatures

Critical Violation
The ability of equipment to cool, heat, and hold potentially hazardous foods at required temperatures is critical to food safety. Improper holding and cooking temperatures continue to be major contributing factors to foodborne illness. Therefore, it is very important to have adequate cooking and hot- and cold-holding equipment with enough capacity to meet the heating and cooling demands of the establishment.