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Food Temperature Control

Published by Safety Net Team

June 18, 2024

Poor temperature control is the most common cause of food poisoning outbreaks, prompting the development of legislation to mitigate this risk. The Food Hygiene (England) Regulations 2013, address the temperature control of high-risk foodstuffs that support microbial growth or toxin formation during storage, handling, preparation, holding, service, and display. These regulations also mandate rapid cooling of food after heat treatment or preparation and controlled temperatures during thawing.

Regulations specific to England, Wales and Northern Ireland

The Food Hygiene (England) Regulations 2013, the Food Hygiene (Wales) Regulations 2006 and the Food Hygiene Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2006, state that, with a number of exceptions, food in a commercial operation that is likely to support microbial growth or the formation of toxins must be held at a temperature of 8°C or below. Good practice, however, generally specifies 5°C as the maximum temperature for holding/storing chilled foods, the danger zone (the temperatures at which bacteria can grow most effectively) is between 5°C and 63°C.

The regulations also require the food business operator (FBO) to keep food (that is likely to support microbial growth or the formation of toxins) at or above 63°C, if it:

  • has been cooked or reheated
  • is for service or on display for sale.

It is also worth noting that hot meals are much more enjoyable if served hot and likewise cold food cold — therefore temperature controls contribute to the quality of the food or meal. Indeed, in the Food Hygiene (Scotland) Regulations 2006 it is a requirement that hot food served for immediate consumption is served at no lower than 82°C.

The Food Hygiene (England) Regulations 2013, as amended (and associated regulations for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland) acknowledge that it may be impractical to keep foods at the required temperatures at all times. They therefore allow certain tolerances, which are set out as defences against prosecution.

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