What Is the Maximum Cold Holding Temperature Legally Allowed for Common Food Items?

by LegalFix
Posted: June 1, 2022
food poisoning

Food poisoning outbreaks and foodborne illnesses are more common than you may initially think. Most people have experienced sickness as the direct result of a foodborne bacteria or toxin at least once. However, these issues are easy to avoid when people employ safe food handling and storage practices.

If you ever go to a restaurant and develop a foodborne illness, you may have a viable personal injury claim against the restaurant. Your ability to successfully sue a restaurant depends on whether or not you can prove that your illness directly results from negligence from the establishment in question.

Food safety regulations are in place to protect people from illness and ensure that all food service establishments employ safe food handling practices. In this article, we’ll discuss safe food storage guidelines and the legal repercussions of improper food storage.

What Is the Temperature Danger Zone?

Whether you work in commercial food service or you’re simply storing groceries at home, safe food storage is a vital component of preventing foodborne illnesses. Anyone working with food should understand temperature danger zones and implement food safety procedures.

When it comes to food storage, the danger zone refers to the temperature range that causes bacteria growth in food. According to ServSafe, food temperatures between 41 and 135 degrees Fahrenheit represent the danger zone. When you store food at these temperatures, bacteria will multiply rapidly. In particular, temperatures between 70 and 125 degrees Fahrenheit are most conducive to bacterial growth. The longer you leave food within the temperature danger zone, the more likely it is that bacterial growth will occur.

Why Is the Temperature Danger Zone Important?

When food enters the temperature danger zone, harmful bacteria will grow, and the food will gradually spoil. Although you may believe that it is easy to tell when food has “gone bad” or is experiencing bacteria growth, sometimes these changes occur without any visible signs. Unsafe food could appear perfectly normal while still containing dangerous bacteria that will cause foodborne illness.

When people store food at temperatures that fall within the danger zone, it is referred to as “time-temperature abuse,” the most common cause of foodborne illness. There are several ways that food may become time-temperature abused, including the following:

  • Storing foods at unsafe temperatures

  • Foods are not cooked at the appropriate temperature to eradicate pathogens

  • When hot food is not cooled correctly before it is placed in cold storage

While it is best to avoid the temperature danger zone altogether, ServSafe states that 4 hours is the maximum time to store ready-to-eat foods in the temperature danger zone. Once the 4-hour time limit has passed, you’ll need to throw the food away. However, within a 4-hour time frame, the food may typically be consumed, chilled, or reheated.

At What Temperature Should I Store My Food?

Temperature Control Safety, also known as TCS, is a term that foodservice professionals use to describe foods that need strict time and temperature control. In TCS foods, pathogens grow easily and quickly. It is of the utmost importance that you keep TCS foods out of the temperature danger zone.

Keeping cold foods at a suitable temperature is referred to as “cold holding.” Cold holding ensures that germs and bacteria do not fester within the food and prevents people from getting sick. Most people know that they should keep foods like raw fish and poultry at cold temperatures, but other foods must also stay in a cold environment and conform with TCS protocols, including:

  • Deli meat

  • Lettuce

  • Pasta salad

  • Cheese

What Is the Maximum Cold Holding Temperature for Deli Meat?

Deli meat should be stored at temperatures no greater than 40 degrees Fahrenheit. You should not leave deli meat unrefrigerated for longer than two hours.

What Is the Maximum Cold Holding Temperature for Lettuce?

Lettuce can also hold harmful bacteria if you leave it at the wrong temperature for too long. Ensure that you do not leave it at room temperature for more than two hours and store your leafy greens at temperatures no greater than 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

What Is the Maximum Cold Holding Temperature for Pasta Salad?

Pasta salad should remain refrigerated in an airtight container at temperatures below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Pasta is safe to eat for five to seven days when stored properly.

What Is the Maximum Cold Holding Temperature for Cheese Trays?

Cheese trays are safe to eat as long as you store them at temperatures ranging from 35 to 45 degrees Fahrenheit. As with most other perishable foods, you should not leave the cheese trays at room temperature for more than two hours.

The Legal Repercussions of Storing Food at Unsafe Temperatures

If you’re a foodservice professional, it is especially important to store food at the right temperature. According to the Food and Drug Administration, 48 million people get sick from foodborne diseases each year. In most states, you can successfully sue a restaurant for food poisoning. However, you must prove that they failed to adhere to food safety regulations as a result of their negligent actions.

Proving negligence is the most difficult part of the legal process because you will need concrete evidence the employees or the restaurant did something that caused your illness. For instance, if you have proof that they left perishable food at an unsafe temperature, you may use it to support your case.

If you are pursuing a claim of negligence, you should also obtain documentation that proves your financial damages and injuries. You may use lost wage forms, medical records, and similar documents. If you win the case, you may recover compensation for the damages, including medical expenses, lost wages, disability, and emotional distress.

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