Food Hygiene and Safety

A Food Safety Guide on Food Storage Temperature

Ricky Kambray
Ricky Kambray

Have you ever stopped to think about the impact of something as simple as food storage temperature on the safety and taste of your meals? Well, you’re in for a treat. In this guide, we will disclose the secrets to keeping your food at the right temperature and at its best quality.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a pro in the kitchen or just someone who loves good food – knowing how to cool and chill your dishes properly can really make a difference.

So, let’s take a closer look at food temperature guidelines, the danger zone you need to watch out for, and some helpful tips to keep your food delicious and safe.

No need to wait any longer – let’s dive right in!

 Close-up of the arrangement of different foods organised in the fridge

Safe Food Storage Temperatures

The right food storage temperature is essential for keeping food safe to eat. Improper storage temperatures can lead to the growth of harmful bacteria and increase the risk of foodborne illnesses. It is important to know the specific temperature requirements for different types of food to ensure their quality and safety.

Importance of Proper Food Storage

  • Maintaining the proper food temperature during storage preserves freshness and nutrient content.
  • It stops food from going bad too soon, which is good for your health and saves money by not wasting food.

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Keeping Food Cold

  • Cold food should be legally kept at 8 °C or below. This is the ideal temperature for frozen food storage.
  • The maximum temperature for chilled food storage is 8°C (46°F)
  • Businesses in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland must legally do this.
  • It’s even better to set your fridge at 5 °C to ensure that food is kept cold enough.
  • Make sure to check your fridge and other display units to keep them cold enough.

Danger Zone Temperature for Food

  • There’s a range where bacteria can easily grow in food – we call it the “danger zone temperatures for food.”
  • If food is in this zone, like between 8 °C and 63 °C, it can make you sick, like from salmonella.
  • Avoiding this zone keeps bacteria from growing and makes food safe to eat.

Guidelines from the Food Standards Agency (FSA)

  • The FSA says to keep food out of the danger zone, so below 8 °C, frozen/ chilled, or heated over 63 °C.
  • For even better safety, heat food over 70 °C for 2 minutes to get rid of more bacteria.
  • Don’t keep food between 5 °C and 63 °C for too long.

Risks of the Danger Zone

  • If food stays in the danger zone, bacteria multiply quickly.
  • Rules are there to help you cool hot food fast to stop bacteria from growing and reduce the chances of food poisoning.
  • Try to cool down hot food within 90 minutes – known as the “90-minute rule.”

HACCP concept text

How to Identify the Critical Control Points?

HACCP, which stands for Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points, is a globally recognised system that helps ensure food health and safety by identifying, evaluating, and controlling potential hazards. A CCP (Critical Control Point) is a crucial stage in the HACCP process where specific actions are needed to remove or lessen a food safety risk.

Unlike regular control points, CCPs are extra important because no other steps can handle the hazard to an acceptable level. For example,

cooking food at 75 °C for 30 seconds.

Examples of CCPs in Food Preparation

An instance of a critical control point is the chilled storage of high-risk foods, like ready-to-eat meat products, for example, ham. In the food preparation stage, some key CCPs are:

Allergen Labelling

It’s not just about keeping foods apart. Allergen labelling means doing extra checks and using special labels to stop things from getting mixed up and causing problems.

Cooking, Reheating, and Thawing

When it comes to cooking, warming up, or defrosting food, you need to follow specific directions. These directions cover things like how hot the food should get and making sure everything’s okay by checking and using the right methods.

Why HACCP Matters?

  • Anyone handling food needs to know about HACCP principles to keep things safe.
  • If you’re not sure, you can learn from our detailed HACCP Level 2 Training course.

Here are more examples of important things to watch out for:

  • Making sure the temperature is just right when storing or delivering food.
  • Using pasteurisation to kill any harmful stuff in the food.
  • Keeping track of how long food is out and making sure it’s at the right temperature when shown.
  • Paying attention to how long it takes to cool food down to a safe temperature after cooking.
  • Different foods need different heat levels to be safe. For example, cooking meat at 75°C for 30 seconds makes sure bad bacteria are gone. But sometimes, lower temperatures for a bit longer can also work safely.

Remember, these are all spots where we really need to be careful to keep our food safe to eat.

Close-up of steam rising from the hot food's bowl.

How to Cool Down Hot Food Quickly?

When you have hot food, it’s important to cool it down before putting it in the fridge or freezer. Why? Because if hot food hangs out with cold or frozen food, the temperature can rise and cause trouble. Frozen stuff might start to thaw and freeze again, which isn’t safe. Plus, the taste and texture of the food can change when it’s not cooled down properly. The same thing goes for refrigerated food – hot stuff makes the area warmer and can let bad bacteria in.

Here’s how you can cool down food quickly and safely if you’re in a hurry:

  • Cover and Move

Put a lid on hot food and move it to a cooler place, like a store room or pantry.

  • Cold Water Bath

    Stand the hot food container in cold water. This helps it cool down faster.

  • Add Some Ice

    If you put ice in the water where the food container sits, it cools down even quicker.

  • Stir It Up

    Give the food a stir while it’s cooling – this helps it chill evenly.

  • Divide and Conquer

    Split the food into smaller portions. This speeds up cooling and makes it safer.

  • Large Piece of Food? Break It Down

    If you’ve got a large piece of food, like a meat joint, cutting it in half helps it cool faster.

  • Flat on a Tray

    For foods like pasta or rice, spread them out on a tray. This cools them down faster than keeping them piled up.

Woman packaging fresh vegetables using food film for food storage.

Tips to Store Food Safely

When you’re chilling or cooling foods, it’s super important to follow the rules for temperatures. Doing this makes sure that the food you keep is safe to eat.

Cooling It Down

Hot food needs to cool down really well within 90 minutes – that’s the 90-minute rule. Fast cooling matters because bacteria can multiply if food stays warm for too long. Try to get food cooler than 8 °C before you pop it in the fridge. If warm food goes into the fridge or freezer, it can make the temperature rise and let harmful bacteria grow.

Chilling It Right

Properly cooling food is a big deal. It stops bad bacteria from spreading and keeps your food safe. Things with a “use by” date, cooked meals, salads, and dairy products should all be kept in the fridge. When you’re preparing food, try to keep chilled things out of the fridge for the shortest time possible.

Understanding the meaning of “Use By” dates is crucial – they signal the last date a food product is safe to eat, ensuring your health and well-being.

Cooling Cooked Food

After cooking, cool your food down fast at room temperature, and then get it into the fridge within 90 minutes. If time’s tight, check out the tips above to cool it down quicker. Oh, and don’t forget to make sure your fridge is really cold – 5 °C or lower (safe temperature for a fridge). And don’t stuff it too full – give the air some space to keep things chilly.

Serving Chilled Food

When you’re serving or displaying chilled food, don’t keep it above 8 °C for more than 4 hours. That’s the safe limit.

Hey food handlers, it’s crucial to get frozen or chilling food temperature and storage right for safety. Having a temperature meat chart, along with others, is a big help. Dive into our blog, “At What Temperature Should Frozen Food be Stored & How Long?” for tips, easy guidance, and a frozen food temperature storage chart, including the temperature meat chart. Stay safe and savvy!

Arrangement of compost made of rotten food

When You Should Discard Food?

We want to avoid wasting food whenever we can. Leftover cooked food is okay in the fridge for around three days. But try to eat it sooner rather than later to stay safe – the longer you wait, the more chance of getting sick. If you can’t eat it in three days, once it cools down after cooking, pop it in the freezer.

Now, if food goes bad, you’ve got two choices for getting rid of it. First, most food waste can be recycled by your council (or at your workplace, by the waste contractor), except for liquids and fats. Second, you can compost lots of food at home. It’s a simple and eco-friendly way to toss stuff like:

  • Scraps of fruits and veggies
  • Old bread, crackers, or cereal
  • The juice from canned fruits and veggies
  • Spices that have seen better days
  • Used tea bags and coffee grounds

But here’s the deal: Don’t toss food waste in your regular trash or down the drain. Trash-bound food makes a gas that’s not great for our planet, and drain dumping can cause blockages. So, remember, recycling and composting are your pals!

Wrapping Up

So there you have it – the ins and outs of food storage temperature! Remember, getting the temperature right is like a secret ingredient to keeping your food safe and delicious. Whether you’re cooling down, chilling out, or storing leftovers, sticking to the right temperatures is your kitchen superpower. By following these guidelines, you’re not just a food lover, you’re a food safety champ. So go ahead, keep those meals cool, and enjoy every bite!

Frequently Asked Questions FAQs

Which methods of food storage are correct?

First, you should keep risky foods cold (5 °C or lower) or hot (above 60 °C) to stay away from the danger zone and food problems. Then, separate raw and cooked, use airtight food storage containers/ food storage bags, mind use-by dates, and be extra careful with risky foods.

What is the correct temperature for frozen food storage?

Frozen food stays best at 0°F (-18°C) or colder – frosty temperatures keep food safe and tasty.

Is BPA-free plastic safe for food storage?

Yes, BPA-free plastic is considered safe for food storage, as it doesn’t have the potentially harmful chemical called BPA. Just ensure it’s labelled BPA-free.

What are the best food storage containers?

Airtight food storage containers (glass-based) or BPA-free plastic containers work great for storing food, keeping it fresh and safe. Look for ones with secure lids for the best results.

What is a cooking temperature chart?

A cooking temperature chart guides you on the right heat levels for safe and delicious meals.

What should I look for in a pet food storage container?

Look for an airtight container with a secure lid made from safe materials and a size that suits your pet’s food quantity. Dry food storage containers keep your pet’s kibble fresh and protected, preserving its taste and nutritional value.

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Ricky Kambray

Hey this is Ricky Kambray an award-winning first-aid trainer with over 20 years of healthcare and teaching expertise. Highly certified general nurse regularly appears in the press discussing accident prevention and first aid advice.