Spicier and icier – what does the NEW R638 have to say about food temperature?

By Testo South Africa SANAS Calibration Lab JHB on 03 May 2019

In June of 2018, the General hygiene regulations for the storage and transport of food were updated. Some important changes were made to the temperature requirements and thus it is essential that we re-visit the importance of temperature control in your restaurant space.

So, what’s the big deal?


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

Food may cause illness because it is contaminated with high levels of pathogenic bacteria that either themselves may make your customers ill or due to their growth in the food, produced toxins that cause illness.

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.

What bacteria need to grow is on your menu

Your kitchen already contains many potentially hazardous foods that might either be contaminated when you receive it e.g raw chicken or has the perfect environment to allow the bacteria to multiply to large numbers.

Bacteria that cause food borne illness need a number of important requirements for them to multiply to the numbers that can cause illness when ingested.

F

Food

There are sufficient nutrients available that promote the growth of microorganisms. Protein-rich foods, such as meat, milk, eggs and fish are most susceptible.

A

Acidity

Foodborne pathogens require a slightly acidic pH level of 4.6-7.5, while they thrive in conditions with a pH of 6.6-7.5.

T

Time

Food should be removed from "the danger zone" (see below) within two-four hours, either by cooling or heating. While most guidelines state two hours, a few indicate four hours is still safe.

T

Temperature

Food-borne pathogens grow best in temperatures between 5 to 60 °C the temperature danger zone (TDZ). They thrive in temperatures that are between 21 to 40 °C.

O

Oxygen

Almost all foodborne pathogens are aerobic, that is requiring oxygen to grow. Some pathogens, such as Clostridium botulinum, the source of botulism, are anaerobic and can grow without the presence of oxygen

M

Moisture

Water is essential for the growth of foodborne pathogens, water activity (aw) is a measure of the water available for use and is measured on a scale of 0 to 1.0. Foodborne pathogens grow best in foods that have aw between 0.95 and 1.0.

 

Any of the food below are a potential problem and it is likely you serve some if not all of them!

 

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, sprouts

Cooked rice and pasta, if not cooled properly after cooking

Foods containing eggs, beans, nuts or other protein-rich foods such as quiche, fresh pasta, fresh mayonnaise and other egg sauces.

Foods that contain these foods, for example sandwiches, subs, raw pizza

 

You can control these growth factors and the law requires that you do!

While you can’t change your menu to exclude the bacteria you can implement some simple measures to make it harder for them to multiply in your kitchen.

 

You can keep your kitchen CLEAN - By removing food soils you can limit the food available for the bacteria for use for growth. This is a legal requirement too.

You can control the TIME – by limiting the time foods stand and the TDZ, you can limit the number of bacteria. Remember 1 can become 1 million is less than 7 hours. This is a legal requirement too.

You can control the TEMPERATURE – by making sure it is too HOT or too cold for the bacteria to be comfortable, you can limit their multiplication. This is a legal requirement too.

 

The General Hygiene Regulation R638 of 2018, promulgated under of the Foodstuffs, Cosmetics and Disinfectants Act, Act 54 of 1972, gives specific and UPDATED temperatures for food storage and transport:

 

 

ANNEXURE E [Regulation 6(7(j), 8(4)(a)(i), 8(6)(e)]

FOOD TEMPERATURES

Column 1
Category

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

Frozen Fish and fishery products

-18°C is the maximum temperature and preferably COLDER than this
Any other food which is marketed as a frozen product -12°C is the maximum temperature and preferably COLDER than this
Chilled Products Raw unpreserved fish, mollusks, crustaceans, edible offal, poultry meat and milk +4°C is the maximum temperature and preferably COLDERE than this
Any other perishable food that must be kept chilled to prevent spoilage +5°C is the maximum temperature and preferably COLDER than this
Heated Products Any perishable food not kept frozen or chilled +60°C is the minimum temperature and preferably HOTTER than this


THE MAXIMUM TIME PERISHABLE FOOD that you serve directly to consumers after processing or preparation may be outside of these temperatures is 4 hours.

Is your hot, hot enough?

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

Regulation 5

(a)“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 1°C.

 

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

 

The new regulations now ALSO require that you maintain records of processing, production and distribution must be kept and retained for a period of at least 6 months after the shelf -life of the product. This means you should have a record of your temperatures at all times. 

Item to be checked Suggested frequency of checks
Walk in Chiller/Fridge/freezers Once per shift
Under counter fridges/chillers Once per shift
Cooking temperatures At the end of cooking prior to service (at least 75°C)
Cold serving temperatures At the end of preparation prior to service (maximum 5 degrees)
Hot hold cabinets/displays/buffet Switched on PRIOR to using to reach temperature BEFORE use. Check temperature prior to use
Cold hold chilled cabinets/displays/buffet Switched on PRIOR to using to reach temperature BEFORE use. Check temperature prior to use
Hot hold temperatures in hot cabinets/displays/buffet Hourly in service, 2 hours maximum recommended
Cold hold temperatures in chilled cabinets/displays/buffet Hourly in service, 2 hours maximum recommended
Hot boxes Switched on PRIOR to using to reach temperature BEFORE use. Check temperature prior to use.


This can be done by completing a form to confirm 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 and NOW legal task.

 

 

References:

  • R638 of 22 June 2018, FOODSTUFFS, COSMETICS AND DISINFECTANTS ACT, 1972 (ACT 54 OF 1972) - Regulations governing general hygiene requirements for food premises, the transport of food and related matters
  • Food Standards Australia New Zealand: Guidance on the temperature control requirements of Standard 3.2.2 Food Safety Practices and General Requirements, 2002
  • Food safety lessons: FAT TOM". Iowa State University, University Extension school.