In order to better assess cooking during all phases of the inspection, inspectors could enlist the help of cooperative food employees to notify them of foods that have finished cooking. This allows inspectors to continue with the inspection in other areas of the operation yet continue to verify that proper cooking temperatures are being met.
Food establishments should routinely monitor cooking temperatures. Inspections should verify that monitoring is occurring by involving the person in charge in these activities during the regulatory inspection. The presence of required thermometers and their proper use should be assessed.
Comparisons should be made between inspectors’ calibrated temperature measuring device and those used by the food establishment. Notation of deviations should be made on the inspection report. Inspectors should ask food establishment personnel to demonstrate proper calibration of their temperature measuring devices.
If required cooking temperatures are not met, inspectors should have the operator continue cooking the food until the proper temperature is reached. Additionally, inspectors should explain the public health significance of inadequate cooking to management and food employees.
Assessing Holding Time and Temperatures and Date Marking
Hot and cold holding temperatures, as well as cooling time and temperatures, of potentially hazardous foods (TCS foods) should be thoroughly checked with a thermocouple, thermistor, or other appropriate temperature measuring device during each inspection. This includes the temperature of potentially hazardous food (TCS food) during transport, e.g., hot holding carts being used to transport food to patient rooms in a hospital, satellite kitchens, or off-site catering events. As a rule, every effort should be made to assess every hot and cold holding unit in the food establishment during a risk-based inspection
Use of an infrared thermometer for verifying holding temperatures is not consistent with Food Code requirements since verifying only the surface temperature of the food may not alert inspectors to problems that exist under the food’s surface. Such problems could stem from improper cooling, in the case of cold-held foods, or improper reheating, in the case of hot-held foods. In addition, inspectors should not stir a food before taking its temperature since it is important to know the temperature of the food before it is agitated.
The geometric center of a product is usually the point of measurement of product temperature particularly when measuring the critical limit for cold holding.
The hot holding critical limit may need additional measurements taken at points farthest from the heat source, e.g., near the product surface for food held on a steam table. Temperatures monitored between packages of food, such as cartons of milk or packages of meat, may indicate the need for further examination. However, the
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