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Food safety: temperature control of potentially hazardous foods

(First printed edition August 2002)

Guidance on the temperature control requirements of Standard 3.2.2Food Safety Practices and General Requirements

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

This guide explains the temperature control requirements in Food Safety Standard 3.2.2 Food Safety Practices and General Requirements and provides some advice on how to comply with the requirements.

Food businesses are required by State and Territory food laws 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 or producing toxins in food is to control the temperature of the food by either keeping it cold or very hot.

The foods that need to be kept cold or very hot are listed on page 4. Food businesses are legally obliged to control the temperature of these foods to prevent food poisoning.

Some foods do not contain bacteria that cause illness or do not provide an environment that will allow bacteria to multiply. These foods do not need to be kept cold or hot.

Keeping food very cold or very hot will only prevent some types of food poisoning. It will not prevent illness caused by, for example, viruses and some types of bacteria such as pathogenic E. coli. Only very small numbers of these bacteria are needed to cause food poisoning. Therefore, any food contaminated by these types of bacteria or viruses may make the food unsafe.

In these cases, temperature control will not prevent food poisoning. The best way to stop these types of bacteria and viruses from causing food poisoning is to prevent the food from beingcontaminated. Once these bacteria and viruses are in the food, the food will be unsafe to eat unless the food is adequately cooked or reprocessed.

Preventing food-poisoning bacteria from contaminating food is just as important as keeping food cold or very hot.

Download: Food Safety: Temperature control of potentially hazardous foods (pdf 160 kb)

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