Temperature monitoring is an essential part of maintaining the quality of any product affected by a shift in temperature. For vaccine distribution, that means keeping temperatures low in transit. In food distribution, it can mean something entirely different depending on the circumstance.
Monitoring food safety temperature should be done at all stages of a product’s lifespan. From production to delivery, it should be kept at a low temperature to prevent bacterial growth. Once it’s served, it may need heating up.
If temperature monitoring systems aren’t used, the quality of the food may suffer. Here’s everything you need to know to avoid safety violations.
Food Safety Temperature Standards
Adhering to food temperature safety standards means knowing the four main temperature zones.
First, you have the hot zone of over 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Cook food above 74 degrees and never allow it to drop below that when prepared.
Inversely, refrigerated food should always be between 0 and 4 degrees Fahrenheit. Frozen food is kept in temperatures below that.
The danger zone for food is any of the temperatures between refrigeration and preparation. Between 4 degrees and 60 degrees, microorganisms and bacteria can develop and grow in food products. Keeping it chilled before serving is essential.
One industry where food temperature monitoring is key is buffet restaurants.
Buffets are notorious for serving food at odd temperatures with questionable preparation methods. Often, people associate eating out at them with contracting stomach viruses. As such, buffet restaurant owners have a specific obligation to ensure that their food is kept at stable, safe temperatures.
Hot foods must be monitored with a food thermometer and served in some kind of warming tray or slow cooker. They should be kept at over 140 degrees or warmer to prevent bacteria from forming.
Colder foods should be kept under 40 degrees Fahrenheit and kept refrigerated until served. If kept out for longer than 2 hours, place them on ice.
More than anything else, discard food if it’s been out for more than 2 hours.
Storing food in a restaurant or at a buffet is a relatively easy affair.
Keep things frozen that you aren’t going to use soon. Refrigerate whatever you’re planning on using within a certain amount of time, depending on when the food expires. Keep cooked food heated for up to 2 hours before disposing of it.
Transporting food is another matter entirely. In 2011, the Food Safety Modernization Act updated the requirements for maintaining food integrity. One such requirement was ensuring that each vehicle had appropriate temperature monitoring systems and cooling units.
Often, food can travel thousands of miles in a truck before reaching its destination. Drivers not only have to learn new sanitary practices but also how to use temperature monitoring systems. This includes checking the temperatures periodically throughout the drive.
Temperature Monitoring Systems
These systems work to monitor food safety temperature throughout every step of its journey.
You could always rely on your normal, manual thermometers to check food temperature, but that requires working with them manually, which introduces human error. The thermometer may not be placed correctly, or the person in charge of monitoring the food may read it wrong or write down the wrong temperature.
Two types of systems you should be most aware of are remote monitoring systems and those made for food transportation.
Remote monitoring systems include wireless, handheld, and cloud-based systems. Automated temperature monitoring can help cut human error and provide reliable data access.
At a buffet, you’ll know immediately if any heating tray is malfunctioning or if one food’s temperature has changed for any reason. In a restaurant, it can help you keep track of any large batches of food you’re preparing.
Wireless systems can help your restaurant stay on top of safety standards and avoid hefty fines. You’ll also save money on maintaining your inventory since food won’t get freezer burned or develop bacteria as often.
It’s also a load off your staff’s shoulders. Large facilities or restaurants have a large stock to manage, and automated, remote monitoring cuts a lot of that time from your scheduling.
Even once a food product has left a plant or warehouse, it still needs to be monitored. The need for electronic data loggers has gone up due to new rules and regulations of the past decade.
Electronic data loggers make food safety temperature measurements easy to track. Install them inside the vehicle for a stable connection. These local systems are especially helpful when Wi-Fi or cellular connections aren’t available on the road.
Some systems allow companies to track temperatures from the very source until it’s delivered.
For transit through cold or hot climates, there are also chemical monitoring indicators that track if temperatures have exceeded certain thresholds. One can track if interior temperatures get too high, while another can do the same for low temperatures.
One important way to prevent food poisoning in your industry is by developing a HACCP plan.
HACCP, or Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point, is a management system in which food safety is monitored and controlled. More specifically, it helps you comply with the Food Safety and Modernization Act of 2011.
In order to put one together, you need to first form a team to cover all your bases. They’ll need someone with industry-specific knowledge with help from various departments.
The team should then map out the process and learn the HACCP principles. They need to understand your product and analyze any potential hazards. Finally, they’ll need to choose a monitoring system and implement the plan.
Invest in Quality Systems
Your company or business may think they can monitor food safety temperature well enough. However, they can always do better by investing in higher quality systems.
With Sensoscientific, you can improve your HACCP compliance and automate your food safety. Monitor the critical limits, identify hazards, and document all your measurements to the Cloud.
See how we can help you improve your business with our food temperature monitoring systems.