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Temperature control

One of the most common causes of foodborne illness is the storage and display of potentially hazardous foods at inadequate temperatures for extended periods. This can lead to the rapid and sustained growth of food poisoning bacteria.

Examples of potentially hazardous foods include:

  • cooked meat
  • dairy products
  • seafood
  • prepared salads, raw salad vegetables
  • cooked rice and pasta
  • processed soya bean products
  • other processed foods containing eggs, beans, nuts or other protein-rich foods that contain any of the above foods such as sandwiches and quiches.

A food business must, when storing and displaying potentially hazardous food, do so under temperature control.

Temperature control means maintaining cold food at a temperature of 5°C or below, or hot food at 60°C or above. If the food is intended to be stored frozen, ensure the food remains frozen during storage and display.

Canned and bottled foods, dried or pickled products and some other processed foods, such as dried pasta, pasteurised juices and dried powder products, are not considered to be potentially hazardous unless opened or reconstituted.

All food businesses that handle potentially hazardous foods are required to have a readily accessible, accurate, probe-type thermometer. Ensure the thermometer probe is cleaned and sanitised before it is used. It is good practice to monitor the temperature of hot or cold foods under operating conditions to ensure adequate temperature control is being maintained. 

2 hour/4 hour rule for temperature control

Studies show potentially hazardous food can be safely held out of temperature control for short periods of time without significantly increasing the risk of food poisoning. The time for which food can be safely held between 5°C and 60°C is commonly referred to as the '2-hour/4-hour rule'.

The NSW Food Authority and local councils recognise the 2 hour/4 hour rule as a validated alternative means of compliance with temperature control requirements in the Food Standards Code. However it must be used correctly.

Food safety guidelines on applying the 2-hour/4-hour rule for temperature control have been developed by the Food Authority to help retail businesses apply the 2-hour/4-hour rule correctly to ensure compliance with Food Standards Code requirements.