Due to the time parameters involved in cooling, inspectors should always inquire at the beginning of the inspection whether there are any products currently being cooled. This allows inspectors an opportunity to take initial temperatures of the products and still have time to re-check temperatures later in the inspection in order to verify that critical limits are being met.
Problems with cooling can often be discovered through inquiry alone. Even when no cooling is taking place, inspectors should ask the food employees and managers questions about the cooling procedures in place.
When examining cold holding units, bulk containers and buckets, tightly packed pans, shrouded rolling racks, or closed rolling cabinets should warrant further temperature and time investigation. Bulk containers and buckets should be opened since they are commonly reused for food storage and cooling.
The geometric center of a product is often chosen as the point of measurement of product temperature particularly when measuring the critical limits for cooling. For foods that are being cooled, temperature profiles throughout the product may show proper temperatures at outer edges and hot spots at the core of the product. Inspectors can verify cooling by first taking a temperature measurement in the geometric center of the product, then at various points around the perimeter of the product. Warmer temperatures in the center of the product, in combination with cooler temperatures around the perimeter, indicate that a product is cooling. Additional questions should be asked to ascertain the cooling time parameters of the food in question. Information gained from food employees and management, in combination with temperature measurements taken, should form the basis for assessing compliance of cooling during an inspection.
The following guidance may be used for determining the appropriate corrective action for improper cooling. Cooked hot food may be reheated to 165 ºF for 15 seconds and the cooling process started again using a different cooling method if the food is:
Above 70 ºF and two hours or less into the cooling process; and
Above 41 ºF and six hours or less into the cooling process.
Cooked hot food should be discarded immediately if the food is:
Above 70 ºF and more than two hours into the cooling process; or
Above 41 ºF and more than six hours into the cooling process.
A different, more accelerated, cooling method may be used for prepared ready-to-eat foods if the food is above 41 ºF and less than four hours into the cooling process; however, such foods should be discarded if the food is above 41 ºF and more than four hours into the cooling process.
Annex 5 – Conducting Risk-based Inspections 530