Sponsored by DayMark
Improper cooking and holding temperatures are among the leading risk factors for foodborne illness in foodservice facilities, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Temperature issues are also among the leading reasons that foodservice facilities are cited for health-code violations. Other common reasons for violations are improper storage, personal hygiene issues (such as insufficient hand-washing) and cross-contamination.
Keeping food safe and avoiding costly health-code violations requires a rigorous temperature monitoring system, which can be made more efficient with technology such as the new DayMark Temp Monitoring Solution, which will soon be available to operators.
Avoiding the ‘Danger Zone’
FDA guidelines set the minimum storage temperature for hot foods stored on steam tables or other areas at 135 degrees Fahrenheit, while cold foods should be kept at 41 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. The harmful bacteria that can cause illness tend to thrive in the “danger zone” between those two thresholds.
Any perishable foods being heated or cooled should spend as little time as possible in the danger zone to minimize the opportunities for bacteria to grow. Federal guidelines call for cooked foods that are placed in storage to be cooled from 135 degrees Fahrenheit to 70 degrees Fahrenheit in two hours or less, and then from 70 degrees Fahrenheit to 41 degrees Fahrenheit in four hours or less.
“Temperature control is a strong defense against foodborne illness,” says one food-safety instructor.
Special attention must be paid not only to cooking and holding temperatures, but also to cooling cooked foods, he says: “Improper cooling is a leading contributor to foodborne illness.”
HACCP: A Science-Based Approach
Many states require that all foodservice workers possess at least some basic training in these and other food-safety procedures, such as proper sanitation of cooking utensils and proper food-storage practices. Some states require that at at least some staff at each location are trained in the comprehensive food-safety system known as Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points, or HACCP. It is a science-based approach to food safety that provides a universal set of standards that can be adapted for any foodservice establishment.
“Prevention is the main goal [of a HACCP program], so that potential biological, chemical or physical hazards can be eliminated or reduced to safe levels before they can do harm,” according to an instructional video from the Fulton County, Georgia, Department of Health and Wellness.
A HACCP system relies heavily on frequent temperature measurement and requires thorough documentation. In the parlance of HACCP, temperature is considered a “critical control limit,” or CCL, which is used to measure food at certain “critical control points” or CCPs. Cooking, for example, can be considered a critical control point, and the internal temperature to which food must be cooked is a critical control limit.
Establishing critical control limits such as temperature measurements is the third of seven HACCP principles, following “conducting a hazard analysis” and “determining critical control points.” The other HACCP principles are:
- Establishing monitoring procedures;
- Establishing corrective actions;
- Establishing verification procedures;
- Establishing record-keeping and documentation procedures.
Eliminating Human Error
HACCP programs have long depended upon workers to perform tasks such as measuring temperatures at specified times and recording the results. This leaves the possibility of human error or other missteps that could occur in the fast-paced, frenetic world of foodservice. Technology is helping operators get past that challenge, however.
The DayMark Temp Monitoring Solution, presented in partnership with JRI, provides temperature monitoring for refrigeration and other maintenance functions, such as line checks and cleaning. The system helps enforce critical control limits, including proper refrigeration and cooking temperatures. Data is backed up to the cloud so that information is not only secure, but also accessible 24/7 from any location.
The solution is accessible in the kitchen via DayMark’s MenuPilot platform, at the corporate level via the MenuCommand portal or as a standalone product.
“Currently, staff are manually writing down refrigeration temperatures—multiple times per shift—or being sent out to the buffet to take the temperature of each dish to ensure health and safety standards are being met,” says Jill Carte, director of product development at DayMark Safety Systems. “With the DayMark system, small sensors [called Nanos] fit inside the refrigeration unit and speak [signal] to a linked receiver outside of the freezer. The timing can be automated by the user, and checks can be scheduled every few hours—or as frequently as needed or wanted—and assigned to specific staff.”
Automated Record Keeping
A key advantage of such a system is that the documentation aspect of HAACP is also automated, she says. The DayMark system writes the information gathered from temperature checks to the cloud and maintains it on a dashboard.
“Operators no longer have to worry about mistakes or someone falsifying information,” says Carte.
With high employee turnover looming as an ever-present challenge in the foodservice industry, operators are increasingly seeking automated solutions that can shoulder some day-to-day responsibilities. Technology such as the DayMark Temp Monitoring Solution can help operators refocus their labor on sales-driving initiatives, while also minimizing the time spent on training and re-training staff how to perform certain tasks.
“The market is demanding more automation for this type of tracking system,” says Carte. “It requires minimal staff training and allows for more efficient, accurate information despite high kitchen staff turnover.”
For more information about temperature monitoring, visit daymarksafety.com/temp-monitoring.