There are two principles that guide the safe handling of food:
- The prevention of food contamination, and
- Controlling bacterial growth in food.
If you work as a food handler, you may be required to complete your food handling certificate. Food safety training will outline all the principles of safe food handling. Time and temperature control are the most effective practices against bacterial growth in food.
As a food handler you need to be aware of temperature control at every stage throughout the production process because bacterial growth is greatest when food is left in the danger zone.
What temperature range marks the ‘danger zone’ of foods, where bacterial growth is greatest? The danger zone is between 5 and 60 degrees Celsius. Foods left in the danger zone are susceptible to dangerous levels of bacterial growth. Food safety training will educate you on these and other important facts.
The Food Safety Standards require you to keep foods at 5 degrees Celsius and below or at 60 degrees Celsius and above to minimise the growth of harmful bacteria in the foods you handle.
And time control is just as important. Consider this: when you minimise the time food spends in the danger zone, harmful bacteria don’t have the opportunity to grow to levels that could cause a food safety hazard such as food poisoning. As a food handler, it is your legal responsibility to understand about such hazards. You can do this by obtaining a food safety certificate.
A handy rule is the two hour four hour rule. You can apply this rule to all high risk, ready to eat foods which have been held at a temperature within the danger zone, between 5 and 60 degrees Celsius.
- Refrigerate immediately after 2 hours
- Use immediately between 2 and 4 hours, and finally
- Discard the food after 4 hours in the danger zone.
By removing the opportunity for bacteria to grow and multiply, you are minimising the risk of a food safety hazard in your workplace.
Ready to eat food should be discarded after 4 hours at in the danger zone. Remember that the ‘2 hour 4 hour rule’ applies to all high-risk, ready to eat foods, so for this scenario, calculate from the time of cooking at 5.30pm to discard at 9.30pm.
Finally, monitoring and record keeping are also used to maintain the hygienic handling of food. It may be necessary for you to monitor and record the temperature and appearance of foods on food safety check sheets as a part of your workplace food safety program. A food safety course will advise you on these and many other food handling requirements. Make sure you have your food handling certificate before applying for a job that requires one.