Food safety information

If you run a food/drink business, then being awarded a high food hygiene rating will be one of your top priorities. This is achieved by adhering to Food Safety Regulations and adopting best practices. 

On this page, we’ll discuss some of the things which will help you to do just that and some of the questions we’re asked most frequently.

Heating food

Why are cooking temperatures important?

It is important that foods are cooked to a time and temperature combination that has been scientifically proven to reduce bacteria to a safe level for human consumption.

Consumers may develop food borne illnesses if unsafe food is ingested. Some foods and cooking methods require extra care and diligence in order to avoid problems.

What are safe cooking temperatures?

The following time and temperature combinations have been scientifically proven to reduce bacteria to a safe level. 

The figures below are minimum time/temperature combinations. I.e. Critical limits, therefore longer periods or higher temperatures represent good practice.

80°c for 6 seconds

75°c for 30 seconds

70°c for 2 minutes

How to check food temperature?

Use a food thermometer probe to check the temperaure of food before serving.

Insert the probe thermometer into the thickest part of the food. If the food is a liquid, then stir it to make sure the heat has been evenly distributed before inserting the thermometer.

Wait at least 15 seconds for the reading to steady. Don’t let the probe touch the food containers, because it will falsify your reading.

Cooling food

Why is it important to cool food rapidly?

Toxins are generally heat stable and will not be not removed by cooking, reheating or microwaving food. It is essential to cool food quickly after cooking to avoid the risk of bacterial spores germinating, becoming viable and then multiplying and/or releasing toxins into the food. 

It is also essential to cool food quickly as non-spore forming bacteria can multiply rapidly once temperatures fall below 63°c. 

How quickly should food be cooled down?

Certain types of foods, especially high protein and high moisture foods provide perfect growth conditions for  both pathogenic and spoilage micro-organisms. These food items are the most likely to be implicated as vehicles in food poisoning incidents. 

These include:

– Cooked meat and poultry such as beef, pork, duck, ham, chicken, lamb, turkey

– Cooked meat products such as meat pies & pasties, meat stock or gravy and pâté

– Dairy products such as milk, cream,  custard, products containing unpasteurised milk, ripened, soft and moulded cheeses

– Egg products such as cooked eggs and quiche, as well as products containing uncooked or lightly cooked eggs (mayo, mousse and some ice cream)

– Shellfish and other seafood such as mussels, cooked prawns, cockles and oysters

– Fresh and partly cooked pasta and dough products

How to cool food quickly.

The use of a blast chiller is the quickest and safest method of cooling food rapidly, see blast chiller method. 

Food can be cooled quicker if a larger surface area is exposed. So portioning and dividing food will allow faster cooling.

Removal of hot food from the original cooking utensil into a clean, disinfected cold receptacle, pan, tray or container will help food to cool much quicker.

Stirring liquid or semi liquid type foods will speed cooling.

Spreading food out to allow a larger surface area will speed cooling.

It is allowable to cool certain types of foods by running cold potable water over them for example, pasta, rice and vegetables which will speed the cooling.

Shellfish can be cooled by placement in a bath of potable ice and water.

Chilled storage

What are the high risk food items?

Certain types of foods, especially high protein and high moisture foods provide perfect growth conditions for  both pathogenic and spoilage micro-organisms. These foods items are the most likely to be implicated as vehicles in food poisoning incidents. The include:

Cooked meat and poultry such as beef, pork, duck, ham, chicken, lamb turkey, duck

Cooked meat products such as meat pies & pasties, meat stock or gravy and pâté

Dairy products such as milk, cream,  custard, products containing unpasteurised milk, ripened soft and moulded cheeses

Egg products such as cooked eggs, quiche and products containing uncooked or lightly cooked eggs such as mayo, mousse and some ice cream

Shellfish and other seafood such as; mussels, cooked prawns,cockles and oysters

Fresh and partly cooked pasta and dough products

Why do some foods need to be refrigerated?

Food is chilled in a refridgerator to slow the growth of bacteria. Micro-organisms favour a temperature of between 20°c and 50°c so by keeping foods, particularly high risk foods, beneath this threshold we protect the food from a high level of bacteria growth. 

What temperature should a fridge be set at?

It is a legal requirement to store high risk foods below 8°c, however, the target storage temperature should always be below 5°c. There will be instances where the fridge unit temperature rises above 5°c, but this should be the exception, not the rule. A temperature of 8°c is the critical limit, any breach of this limit is when corrective actions must be implemented to bring the temperature back to a safe limit as quickly as possible. 

The temperature of each unit should be taken and recorded in a compliance diary taken twice per day. Once am and once pm.

How long can food be stored at room temperature?

Food that has been above 8°c for longer than 4 hours must be discarded. Don’t put the food back in the fridge and don’t keep it for later. 

How to separate food in fridge

Raw and high-risk foods must be separated from each other at all times, preferably in separate fridges. If this is not possible, then raw foods should be stored below high-risk products to avoid drip contamination.

Raw foods defrosting in a fridge must always be contained within an outer tray or receptacle to catch drips and avoid further contamination of fridge and other products.

How should food be separated in fridge

Foods that are stored or displayed in refrigerated units must be covered adequately to prevent the risk of physical, allergenic and microbiological contamination. Avoid using cloths or tea towels. Instead, use food grade storage containers or food grade food wrappings. 

Refrigerated display units must provide screening and/or sneeze guards to protect stock.

Why does some food need freezing?

Freezing foods to a minimum of -18°c ensures that all bacterial activity ceases. Both pathogenic and spoilage organisms are rendered dormant and growth stops.

Higher temperatures of above -15°c will allow spoilage organisms to start multiplying very slowly.

What temperature should a freezer be set at?

Foods stored in the freezer must be stored at -18°c or colder.

The temperature of each unit should be taken and recorded in a compliance diary taken twice per day. Once am and once pm.

Food hygiene rating

What is the Food Hygiene Ratings Scheme ?

The Food Hygiene Rating Scheme is run by the Food Standards Agency in partnership with local authorities. It is used to assess the level of food safety compliance within businesses where food is supplied, sold or consumed. It aims to improve overall food hygiene standards for consumers and provide enough information so that they can make an informed decision on where to eat and drink.

Read more…

Food allergens

What are the 14 major food allergens ?

There are 14 major allergens which need to be communicated to your customer, either on a label or through provided information such as menus.

Cereals containing gluten, crustaceans,  molluscs, eggs, fish, peanuts, milk, lupin, (tree) nuts, soya, sesame seeds, celery, mustard, sulphites and sulphur dioxide.

Read more…

Long form information about food safety.

Five steps for a food-safe festive period

Five steps for a food-safe festive period

12 min read
If you’re a restaurant, bar, coffee shop, hotel, or any other type of food and drink businesses, you’re about to enter one of your busiest times of the year. Unfortunately, that also means you’re about to enter one of your highest-risk periods as well.

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