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									Temperature control
Is temperature control covered by law?

Yes. The Food Hygiene (England) Regulations 2006, Schedule 4, sets out the ways you must
control the temperature of foods that are capable of supporting the growth of harmful bacteria.
For high risk foods in particular, keeping them chilled or hot is the single most important control
in making sure they are safe to eat.

If you run a food business, you are also required to identify food safety controls in your business
by carrying out a process known as ‘Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points’ (HACCP) (see our
information sheet on this subject).

Why is temperature control so important?

By controlling the temperature of foods, you restrict the growth of bacteria, which reduces the
risk of food-poisoning.

Bacteria need warmth to live and multiply. Generally, their growth is prevented at temperatures
of less than 8oC and above 63oC most are killed. The range between these two temperatures is
known as the ‘danger zone’ where bacteria will grow rapidly. You must avoid keeping foods at
temperatures within the danger zone.

Which foods are likely to require temperature control to keep them safe?

1.     Foods that have labels which say they should be refrigerated.

2.     Foods which are likely to support the growth of food poisoning bacteria if they are not
       kept under temperature control (please see page 3).

For the purpose of this guide, we will refer to these foods as ‘relevant foods’ or ‘relevant hot

Not all foods need temperature control. Whether they do or not depends on factors such as
their shelf-life, composition, acidity level, and method of processing and packaging.

Foods that do need temperature control include all the main perishable food items, such as
cooked meats, chicken, fish, eggs and dairy dishes. Correct temperature control of these foods
is also necessary to prevent them from spoiling and ‘going-off’.

Cold food

The law says that relevant foods must be kept at or below 8oC.

Please note, it is the temperature of the food itself that is controlled and not the temperature of
the air inside a refrigerator.

Do all cold foods have to be kept chilled

Some perishable foods may be kept at room temperature as food-poisoning bacteria cannot
grow in them. These include margarines, butter and fats (but not low fat spreads), and most
jam and pickles. You should follow the manufacturer’s or supplier’s advice.
Uncut egg custard tarts can be kept at room temperature for up to 24 hours after production.
Cooked pies and pasties (provided nothing has been added to them after cooking) and sausage
rolls can also be kept at room temperature for up to 24 hours after production.

If you plan to leave these foods at room temperature for up to 24 hours, you must have a
system to make sure you do not exceed the 24 hours.

Raw meat and some fish may be kept at ambient temperature provided they will be eaten after
further processing, such as cooking or curing. But it is good practice to keep all raw meat chilled
and to limit the amount on display. To maintain quality, fresh fish should be kept in storage and
on display at the temperature of melting ice (0ºc).

What is the four-hour rule?

The law allows you to keep relevant food at 8oC or more if it is displayed for sale for a single
period of not more than four hours.

Sandwiches and cream cakes can be kept at room temperature for up to four hours after
production. You must make sure that this time period is kept. You should use a method to
make it clear when food went on display and when it should come off (such as sticky labels or
coloured dots).

You must dispose of food of at the end of the four hour period unless you are sure that it
remains wholesome. In this case you must chill it quickly to 8oC or less, and sell or dispose of it
within a period which does not pose a risk to anyone’s health.

What temperature should my fridge be?

You should set your fridge at 5oC to allow a margin of error below the legal standard (8ºC). This
is particularly true for cabinet fridges where there can be significant temperature rises if you
open the door frequently.

Higher temperatures allow more bacteria to grow and increase the time it takes to reduce the
temperature of food placed in the refrigerator. This increases the time that the food remains
within the danger zone.

Hot food

What temperature does hot food need to be kept at after it is heated?

You must keep relevant hot food at 63oC or more after cooking or re-heating it. You must take
care to ensure that the equipment you use to keep food hot is capable of maintaining food at
63oC or more.

What is the two-hour rule?

The law allows you to keep relevant hot food at less than 63oC for up to two hours.

However, if you choose to keep the food hot, you must have a system to make sure the time
limit is kept. At the end of the time period, food must be disposed of unless you are sure it
remains wholesome. In this case you must either chill it to 8oC or less, or heat it to 63oC or
more, and it must then be sold or disposed of by the end of the trading day.

You should limit the amount of food you keep below 63oC for display purposes, and dispose of
any that is left over at the end of the two-hour period.

What about cooling foods?

When you are cooling relevant foods before putting them in the refrigerator or freezer, it is
important to cool them quickly to reduce their time in the danger zone. This avoids the risk of
any bacteria growing.

So controlling the temperature of food is very important?

For advice on how to check that food is being kept at the correct temperature, please see our
temperature monitoring leaflet (available from Environmental Services – please phone 01992

Foods that are likely to need temperature control

             Cooked meats and fish, meat and fish products. This includes prepared meals
             containing meat, meat pies, pates, potted meats, quiches and fish dishes.

             Cooked meats in cans, which have been pasteurised rather than fully
             sterilised. This includes large packs of ham or cured shoulder of ham.

             Cooked vegetable dishes. This includes cereals, rice and pulses.

             Any cooked dish containing eggs or cheese. This includes flans and pastries.

             Prepared salads and dressings. This includes mayonnaise and prepared salads
             with mayonnaise or any other kind of dressing. Some salads or dressings may have
             a level of acidity that is adequate to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria.

             Soft cheeses and mould ripened cheeses (after ripening). This includes
             Camembert, Brie, Stilton, Roquefort, Danish Blue and any similar kind of cheese.

             Smoked or cured fish, and raw scombroid fish. For example, smoked salmon,
             smoked trout, smoked mackerel; raw tuna, mackerel and other scombroid fish.

             Sandwiches with fillings that include any of these types of food.

             Low acid desserts and cream products. These include dairy desserts, fromage
             frais and cream cakes. Some artificial cream may be safe at room temperature due
             to its high sugar content. You may need to check this with your supplier.

             Fresh pasta and uncooked or partly cooked pasta and dough products. This
             includes unbaked pies and sausage rolls, unbaked pizzas and fresh pasta.

             Smoked or cured meats which are not ambient-stable. These include salami,
             parma hams and other fermented meats if they are not stable at room temperature.
             You may need to check this with your supplier.

Some cooked vegetable or dessert recipes may have a high enough sugar content
(possibly combined with other factors like acidity) to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria.
These foods are not subject to the mandatory temperature control requirements.

Ref: temp control revised 03/01


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