Who is Responsible for Keeping Food Safe?
Millions of people are getting sick from foodborne illnesses each year. With that in mind, it is everyone’s responsibility to keep food safe. If someone is careless and neglects food safety during handling, preparing, or storing of food, the risks can be high. Eating food handled by a careless person can land you in the emergency room, suffering considerable pain and can be potentially life-threatening.
Guidelines for Food Safety
As long as we’re on the subject of food safety, it’s worth asking, “Just how can you make sure that you protect your food from potentially dangerous microbes?” Aren’t they invisible to the naked eye? And if you can’t see them, and they don’t even smell bad or cause any real odor until well after they’ve created a serious health risk, then how can you even tell if they’re present?
The first thing to know is the role temperature plays in all of this. So, let’s start by getting familiar with what health and safety experts call the “Danger Zone”. Foods are at risk for harboring bacteria that cause food-borne illnesses such as E. coli, salmonella, and listeria at temperatures between 40ºF and 140ºF. In simpler terms, you have to keep your food outside the temperature range from 40ºF to 140ºF.
While this seems simple enough, when you realize that room temperature is pretty much right in the middle of that range, you can begin to see how easy it might be for foods to end up inside the ‘danger zone’. Just leave foods out in an indoor environment, or even on a mild day outdoors, and those foods can quickly be well within these bacteria-prone temperatures. But that’s not the only way this can happen. Foods stored or refrigerated at temperatures that do not get below 40°F can also pose risks.
Keeping Foods Out of Danger Is Easy with the ennoLogic Infrared Thermometer
Here’s where the eT650D infrared thermometer can serve as your handy food safety inspector. Simply point the temperature gun at the food and start measuring. With the help of its dual lasers, you will know exactly where on the surface of the food the measurement is being taken, and you can easily scan or take spot measurements across entire surfaces without handling the food. You’ll get instant spot readings of the surface temperature of whatever food you want to measure, and you can do all of this without any direct contact with the food. That means no worries about cross-contamination between different foods being measured or of contamination of the measuring instrument. And you can do it all with the simple point and shoot application that only a temperature gun offers – easy, fast and reliable readings that anyone can be trained to take in a matter of minutes.
Food Safety Tips at Home
Restaurants aren’t the only places foods can end up at risk. Even food at home is not safe. Holidays and family gatherings present special challenges to food safety. Things can get hectic trying to get all the food to the table at the right time, dealing with guests and special dishes, as well as managing keeping foods in the kitchen and after the meal safely stored and put away.
Measuring Food Temperature Before Serving
Measure the temperature of foods like mashed potatoes, gravy, or green bean casserole before serving. Get accurate readings by stirring the food from the center upwards to the surface while aiming the temperature gun at the food being brought up to the surface from the center of the dish. The infrared thermometer measures surface temperature, so you want to get the food at the center up to the surface to get an accurate reading of the uniform temperature of the entire dish. If the food is not in a heated serving station, as it would be in a restaurant, this will tend to cool the food, so only measure once before serving when using this technique at home. Another option is to measure the food while it is still in the cooking pot, just before transferring it to a serving dish, but then it should be served immediately.
Measuring Food Temperature in the Fridge
Regularly check the temperature of food in the refrigerator to determine that all stored foods and the refrigerator environment is below 40°F. In cases where food volume is temporarily increased, such as before holidays or parties, be sure to check that the refrigerator’s setting is adequate to keep the food properly chilled. Use the scan feature of the temperature gun to check for adequate refrigeration. If scans reveal more than a few items in the fridge are over 40°F in temperature, reduce the temperature setting of the refrigerator to help keep the food chilled.
Food Safety Tips for Establishments Serving Food to the Public
Food establishments such as restaurants, café͛s, and bars understand the need to track the temperature of their perishable and cooked foods. As statistics have shown, food establishments have twice the risk of spreading food-borne illnesses compared to homes. These establishments need to make sure they have a reliable measuring device that consistently provides them with accurate temperature readings.
Areas of Higher Risk in Restaurant Food Safety
The highest risk in restaurants can be found at open salad bars where foods that are not heated are open for public self-service. These must be properly maintained with chilled surfaces below the open service areas keeping fresh foods chilled from below. Taking temperature readings of open food service stations should be done periodically throughout the day. If foods are replaced frequently, this helps to reduce risk. So, lettuces and greens which are used up quickly are at less risk, for example, than beets, grated carrots or other foods which are less frequently replaced with fresh food. Egg and dairy-based ingredients are of higher risk than greens or clean raw vegetables, as well.
Making Sure Hot Foods Are Really Hot and Safe
Most restaurants keep hot food in ‘hot food stations’ where pots of soup, mashed potatoes, and other ready-to-serve hot foods are kept at a minimum of 165°F, even though food safety standards require a minimum of 140°F. Hot food station dishes can be checked using the same method as home cooked hot food dishes, by stirring the food from the center of the deepest part of the food and bringing the food upwards toward the surface while measuring in the scan mode of the infrared thermometer. By stirring the food while measuring, it is possible to discover the overall temperature of the food. This helps avoid inaccurate or incomplete temperature readings.
Keeping Food Safe in the Restaurant Kitchen
From thawing frozen portions for later cooking to making up fresh salads and other pre-made dishes prepared by prep chefs in advance of the mealtime rush, there’s a lot to keep track of in a busy restaurant kitchen. Foods must be handled safely, and then unused portions or whole foods from which portions are taken, such as cheese, cakes etc. must be returned to proper storage conditions. All of this is going on in continuous cycles of food preparation and service in the professional restaurant kitchen.
This is why restaurant and commercial food preparation kitchens have strict requirements about designated areas for handling different types of food, as well as activities such as cooking, washing dishes, or washing fruits and vegetables. Different types of food are handled in different parts of the kitchen, and different activities happen only in their designated areas. Maintaining different work areas for different food types helps to avoid cross-contamination and further reduce the risk of food-borne illnesses.
Of course, maintaining all the correct temperatures in the restaurant kitchen is equally important in keeping food safe. Using an infrared thermometer is a simple way to quickly spot test temperatures of fresh chilled and hot foods before serving.
A non-contact thermometer means you can even check dishwasher water temperatures with no risk of getting burned. It also makes spot check refrigerators and freezers, or open food display cases when trouble is suspected. The infrared thermometer makes it simple and fast to check if frozen foods and deep freezers are safely within their target temperatures, as well.
The temperature gun is terrific for all of these uses in the kitchen, but keep in mind that the chef may have his or her own ideas about the best use for that thermometer. Many commercial kitchens and restaurants rely on their infrared thermometers for setting grill temperatures, testing the temperatures of simmering stocks, braising meats, and high heat searing and saute pans. Wood-fired pizza restaurants and artisan bakeries use them for testing the temperature of the stone or brick inside their wood-fired ovens.
Keeping Storage Areas Safely Below Room Temperature
Measure refrigeration, freezing, and heating units by using the infrared thermometer to read the temperatures of their interior walls. Also, double-check the temperatures of the items inside by reading their surface temperatures.
When measuring different surface materials, be mindful of the emissivity setting. Walls such as stainless steel have low emissivity and might distort the true temperature reading without an adjustment of the emissivity setting of the thermometer. So, make sure to set the correct emissivity setting for these types of surfaces. You can use our guide on the temperature gun’s emissivity setting for your easy reference to choosing the correct settings.
Food that is “ready to eat” has the highest probability to potentially harbor bacteria that can land consumers in the emergency room. These foods are typically found in the deli or produce sections. Therefore, since temperature dramatically affects the quality and safety of the food, it is crucial that managers closely monitor the temperatures of the units and the foods stored within those units.
Food Safety at Grocery and Retail / Wholesale Food Outlets
Keeping food safe at grocery stores and food retail and wholesale outlets means constant monitoring of refrigeration units, freezers, and walk-in coolers. Most grocery stores and outlet stores also employ freezer cases and closed refrigeration units and displays, or use special thermal materials to cover open refrigerated display cases at night to maintain consistent temperatures to keep chilled and frozen food safe while reducing energy use.
EnnoLogic’s infrared thermometers make temperature checking for both refrigerated and frozen foods fast and easy in grocery store environments. The non-contact feature makes quick work of testing entire freezer contents and glass display case contents with a simple scan of the surface of the foods inside. You can even HOLD the trigger while scanning each surface of the foods and looking for anything that might need attention. The temperature gun will take readings as you scan across the surface. Please note, however, that the infrared thermometer does NOT work through glass like freezer and refrigerator display doors. The thermometer must have direct unobstructed access to the surface for which a temperature reading is being taken.
Keeping Your Food Safe Requires a Reliable Workhorse
For most situations where accurate temperature readings are required to know if your cooked food is kept hot and your frozen food kept cold, the ennoLogic eT650D Infrared Thermometer can easily handle the speed and accuracy needed for these critical aspects of keeping food safe. The risk of exposure to ambient air temperature changes and/or human exposure to extreme hot and cold temperatures is significantly reduced by the high speed at which readings can be taken; even when opening and checking deep-freeze storage areas. Its non-contact feature also makes sure that the measuring device is not part of the problem of contamination when handling food.
This fun, fast-paced little training video will give you the opportunity to test your own Food Safety IQ and provide some added tips to make sure that we all keep our food safe and avoid spreading unwanted germs:
Do you have other ways you use our infrared thermometer to keep your food safe? Please share in the comments below!