Spicy hot, icy cold – keeping food fresh and safe in your restaurant space

By Linda Jackson on 05 June 2017

In the first of our Food safety in the Food service sector articles we discuss the importance of temperature control


“Restaurant Owner Charged With Manslaughter Following Food Safety Incident”
“Eva Longoria’s Celebrity Restaurant Shut Down Due to Food Safety Issues”


Are these headlines you would rather do without? But if hot and cold are only used to describe the flavours on your menu, you could be next.

Whether it’s a burger by whatever name or gourmet French cuisine a-la-carte, temperature is a common denominator. Hot and cold are critical adjectives in your facility and require action as they have a huge impact on the safety of the food you serve to customers and patrons.

So what's the big deal? Let's unpack it for you...


1. Keeping foods at the right temperatures is an essential food safety practice

Food businesses are required to ensure that the food they prepare and sell is safe to eat. ‘Safe to eat’ means that food will not cause illness when someone eats it. The common symptoms of food borne illness, or food poisoning, are diarrhoea, vomiting and stomach pains. Symptoms may also include nausea, headaches, fever, muscle and joint pains.

Food may cause illness because there are high levels of food-poisoning bacteria in the food. The bacteria themselves may make your customers ill or the bacteria may have produced poisons in the food that cause illness. These poisons are called toxins.

A way of preventing or limiting bacteria from multiplying to these dangerously high levels or producing toxins in food is to control the temperature of the food by either keeping it cold or very hot.


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2. You serve potentially hazardous foods

Potentially hazardous foods are foods that meet both the criteria below:

  • they might contain the types of food-poisoning bacteria that need to multiply to large numbers to cause food poisoning; and
  • the food will allow the food-poisoning bacteria to multiply.
Raw and cooked meat (including poultry and game) or foods containing raw or cooked meat such as casseroles, curries and lasagne Dairy products, for example, milk, custard and dairy-based desserts such as cheesecakes and custard tarts Seafood (excluding live seafood) including seafood salad, patties, fish balls, stews containing seafood and fish stock Processed fruits and vegetables, for example salads and cut melons Cooked rice and pasta Foods containing eggs, beans, nuts or other protein-rich foods such as quiche, fresh pasta and soy bean products Foods that contain these foods, for example sandwiches, rolls and cooked and uncooked pizza


Spot something that is on your menu? All restaurants, QSR’s and food service operators handle or sell potentially hazardous food so this definitely applies to you. These food needs to be kept very hot or very cold.


3. Food businesses are legally obliged to control the temperature of these foods to prevent food poisoning

The General Hygiene Regulation R962 of the Foodstuffs, Cosmetics and Disinfectants Act, Act 54 of 1972, gives specific temperatures for food storage and transport:


ANNEXURE D [Regulation 8(4)]


Column 1

Column 2
Type of Food

Column 3
Required Core temperature of food products that are stored, transported or displayed for sale
Frozen products Ice cream and sorbet, excluding sorbet which is used for soft serve purposes -18°C
  Any other food which is marketed as a frozen product -12°C
Chilled products Raw unpreserved fish, mollusks, crustaceans, edible offal, poultry meat and milk +4°C
  Any other perishable food that must be kept chilled to prevent spoilage +7°C
Heated products Any perishable food not kept frozen or chilled >1+65°C


 You, as the person in CHARGE of the establishment, are responsible for ensuring this regulation is enforced.


4. You can’t manage what you can’t measure

You are also required to have the right equipment to prove this is done in your establishment.

“Every chilling and freezer facility used for the storage, display or transport of perishable food shall be provided with a thermometer which at all times shall reflect the degree of chilling of the  refrigeration area of such facility and which shall be in such a condition and positioned so that an accurate reading may be taken unhampered.

(b) Every heating apparatus or facility used for the storage, display or transport or heated perishable food shall be provided with a thermometer which at all times shall reflect the degree of heating of the heating area concerned and which shall be in such a condition and positioned so that an accurate reading may be taken unhampered”.

This applies to your under counter fridges, walk in cold rooms and even your Bain maries.

Please note that "thermometer" means an apparatus which can give the temperature readings referred to in these regulations, the combined accuracy of such a thermometer and its temperature-sensitive sensor being approximately 0,5°C.


Excerpt from The General Hygiene Regulation R962 of the Foodstuffs, Cosmetics and Disinfectants Act, Act 54 of 1972


(And don’t forget the calibration and verification of these thermometers as you will have to show they are accurate.)



5. Proving your due diligence

So, how will you prove your innocence should there be a complaint from a customer? How will you demonstrate your compliance to the inspector?

Ideally, you should have a record of your temperatures at all times. This can be done by completing a form to confirm your chillers, freezers and fridges are at the correct temperatures at least daily. Hot and cold serving areas should be checked during service times and recorded. This could also be done more efficiently using fully automated systems which take the readings, log these and inform you immediately of deviations taking the hassle out of this necessary task.

A small price to pay to protect your brand!



  • R962 of 12 November 2012, FOODSTUFFS, COSMETICS AND DISINFECTANTS ACT, 1972 (ACT 54 OF 1972) - Regulations governing general hygiene requirements for food premises and the transport of food
  • Food Standards Australia New Zealand: Guidance on the temperature control requirements of Standard 3.2.2 Food Safety Practices and General Requirements, 2002