Onsite Insights Especially for school nutrition managers, assistant managers and employees FOOD SAFETY TEMPERATURE DANGER ZONE Fill in the blanks: Most foodborne illness happens because of . grow very rapidly in the food temperature danger zone, which is between _ and __ degrees F. Pathogens grow especially quickly between _ and ____ degrees F. Answers: Most foodborne illness happens because of time temperature abuse. Bacteria grow very rapidly in the food temperature danger zone, which is between 41 and 135°F. Pathogens grow especially quickly between 70 and 125°F. Can You Calibrate? Calibrating, or adjusting, thermometers ensures accurate temperature readings for food and equipment. Most thermometers can be calibrated, but some can’t and must be replaced or sent back to the manufacturer. The specific steps you take depend on the type of thermometer in use. There are, however, certain standards you should know. Take turns calibrating the thermometers in your kitchen using each method, with a partner checking your accuracy. After your training exercise, take this short, multiple-choice quiz to test your knowledge! 1) Thermometers should be calibrated within: a. +/- 2 degrees F b. +/- 1 degree F c. +/- 3 degrees F d. +/- 4 degrees F 2) How often should thermometers be calibrated? a. Weekly b. Before every shift c. Hourly d. Monthly 3) What are two basic recommended ways to calibrate food thermometers? a. Change the batteries b. Ice point test c. Boiling water test d. Compare with weather thermometer 4) How does elevation affect thermometer calibration? a. It does not have any effect. b. Water boils at a higher temperature at higher elevations. c. Water gets hotter as it boils longer. d. Water boils at a lower temperature at higher elevations. Answers: 1: a; 2: b; 3: b & c; 4: d Tracking Temperatures: Equipment, Too! Food safety requires monitoring both food temperatures and equipment temperatures. Foodservice equipment temperatures must be recorded to ensure foods are always at an appropriate temperature at every stage, from product shipping to storage to cooking, holding hot, cooling, holding cold, transporting and reheating. There are four main categories of equipment that require temperature monitoring: • Food Storage, which includes refrigerators and milk coolers (35°F to 41°F), as well as freezers (at or below 0°F) • Cooking food in ovens, kettles, steamers, etc. • Holding equipment, such as hot (135°F or above) and cold (at or below 41°F) holding cabinets • Dishwashing equipment, where the water must be at least 160°F when it comes into contact with tray/dish surfaces If you satellite meals from one location to another—even different serving sites on a large high school campus—you also will need to check the temperatures of various transportation equipment, ranging from ice chests to insulated carriers to holding cabinets to rolling racks to the delivery truck itself. KEEP or TOSS? If you experience a power outage, some food items may still be safe. But other foods need to be discarded even if they are held at 40°F for two hours or more. If the power goes out, do not open the refrigerator or freezer door, as that will increase the temperature of the unit. Keep a thermometer in refrigerators and freezers to monitor temperatures. Once power is restored, which items should be kept or tossed? Test yourself with the following list. If held at 40°F for 2 hours or more, which items should be kept or tossed?: Butter Processed Cheese Pizza Milk Chicken Spaghetti Sauce Potato Salad Vegetables (raw) Eggs Tortillas Shredded Cheese Soup Salad Dressing (cream-based) Greens (packaged, pre-cut/washed) Answers: Keep: Butter, Eggs, Processed Cheese, Tortillas, Vegetables (raw) Toss: Chicken, Greens (packaged, pre-cut/washed), Milk, Pizza, Potato Salad, Salad Dressing (cream-based), Shredded Cheese, Spaghetti Sauce, Soup Donna Myers SNA School Nutrition Employee/Manager Representative Tracking Temperatures Is Never Temporary TAKING FOOD TEMPERATURES OVER AND OVER (AND OVER) AGAIN is likely to be an unfamiliar step for most people new to working in school kitchens. After all, most home cooks aren’t constantly taking food temps, even if they should. Do you take temperatures when you cook for your family? Don’t feel bad if you have previously neglected this food safety step in prepping your own meals. Even among those who have worked in the K-12 foodservice segment for a while, it can be difficult to maintain this particular food safety process. But school cafeteria staff must operate very differently at work than you might at home. Food safety is a critical responsibility for each of us who prepare and serve school meals. We must make sure that every meal for every student is safe. To do that, not only is it important to take and record temperatures, we must act on the information that we collect. Documentation is essential. Let’s say there is an outbreak of food-borne illness at school. Inevitably, all eyes will turn to the cafeteria first; they always do. That’s one reason why we must track and document each careful step we take in prioritizing the safety of meals. Cafeteria team members in my district are trained and empowered to take action if temperature taking shows that menu items have fallen out of the food safety zone—and your team should be, too! If there is a temperature error, be sure to encourage staff to take action, rather than simply logging the difference. This includes steps like notifying a manager, checking the equipment for signs of failure and, above all, not serving the food. Monitoring. Corrective action. Verification. Record keeping. These are all key elements of the HACCP-based food-safety plan we follow in my district—as do most other cafeterias all across the country. Such plans are extensive, and they can be a little intimidating at first. We include the plan in new employee orientations, regularly providing food safety training to all employees and revisiting different topics at our yearly inservice. We all want to ensure that the food prepared and served to our students is safe for them to eat. We want our kitchens to be a reliable source of quality—not just quality ingredients or quality recipes, but high-standard procedures that remove worry from customers, and their parents, who place their trust in us each day. Remember: Always use that food thermometer at work—and give it a try at home, too! THERMOMETERS 101 Thermometers are not interchangeable. You must choose the correct thermometer based on how it will be used. Bimetallic Stemmed: Measures temperatures from 0° to 200°F. Has a calibration nut. Is not practical for checking the temperatures of thin items, such as chicken patties or tenders. The stem must be inserted up to the dimple. It cannot measure air temperature. Thermocouples and Thermistors: Displays results digitally. These come with a variety of probes, but the sensing area is always in the tip. They can be used to check the temperature of flat cooking surfaces, as well as air temperatures. Are good for checking thick and thin foods. Infrared/Laser: Is used to measure surface temperatures of both food and equipment; it cannot check the internal temperature of food or read temperature through glass or aluminum. It also can’t be used to measure air temperature. Hold the thermometer as close as possible to the food without actually touching it. Time/Temperature Indicators: These monitor both time and temperature and are attached to product packages by the supplier. The color changes when an item has been “time-temperature abused.” Maximum Registering: Works well for checking the final rinse temperatures in dishwashers and for when temperatures cannot be continually monitored. It indicates the highest temperature that was reached. Are you staying within range? » Refrigeration (air): 38°F or below » Refrigeration (food): 41°F or below » Seafood: 30°F – 34°F » Fresh produce: 41°F – 45°F » Deep chill: 26°F – 32°F » Freezer (food): 0°F or below » Dry storage: 50°F – 70°F Tips for Temperature Tracking Transparency Keep temperature tracking visible and improve accountability with simple changes that will have your whole staff paying closer attention: Keep your logs in visible locations— out of sight is out of mind! Attach a thermometer to each clipboard/temperature record. Make sure alcohol wipes are placed near each clipboard for quick, easy thermometer cleaning after readings. Keep blank temperature logs within easy reach. Use a clipboard rather than a binder so employees can check records at-a-glance. BONUS WEB CONTENT TAKING TEMPERATURES For other activities and tips to help train and remind your school nutrition team members about this important food safety requirement, check out this month’s online extras. Visit www.schoolnutrition.org/snmagazinebonus to access.
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