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Food Temperature Control Best Practices | Ecolab Food Safety
reduce foodborne illness with proper temperature controls

Keeping Food Safe with Proper Food Temperatures

By Cindy Rice, FS, CP-FS,MSPH

Implementing consistent positive behaviors around food safety and sanitation long-term is essentially an expression of the food safety culture. When staff are engaged and food safety protocols become second nature, they are lifting up safety levels, every day, every shift, together in a positive way. A strong food safety program in your facility has several benefits:

  • Reduced risk of harmful bacteria and foodborne illness from foods
  • Motivated staff to carry out safe procedures
  • Protection of your brand
  • Customer satisfaction

Receiving and storage

  • Inspect delivery trucks to ensure they are properly refrigerated and take food temperatures upon receiving (ensure 41F or below for TCS foods)
  • Set refrigerator to the proper temperature (recommended 35F to 38F for a reach-in or walk-in cooler) so that food temperatures are maintained at 41F or below
  • Install temperature measuring devices in all coolers
  • Verify coolers' internal temperatures regularly (at least daily) and have logs available to document


  • Have accurate food thermometers available
  • Train staff on proper thermometer use, calibration and sanitization
  • Use probe thermometers consistently to ensure proper cooking temperatures, FDA 2017 Food Code**: Poultry 165 F, Ground meats 155F, Whole meat cuts/eggs/fish 145F, Reheating leftovers to 165F within 2 hrs
  • Proper procedures in place for cooling foods quickly from 135 F to 41F, and having necessary tools for doing so: ice wands, shallow pans, small containers
  • Manual warewashing and automatic dishmachines set at proper temperatures for washing/ rinsing/ sanitizing, according to equipment specifications and manufacturers' instructions

train staff on proper food temperature controls

Training and Positive Reinforcement

  • Staff education of the dangers of improper food temperatures (bacterial growth, toxin production, spoilage, foodborne illness)
  • Procedures in place for properly using, calibrating and sanitizing food thermometers
  • Posters and bi-lingual wall charts to remind staff of proper methods for cooking, cooling, storage and temperature measurement
  • Ongoing observations by management and corrective actions where needed
  • Ongoing support by management and positive reinforcements to staff
  • Periodic review of temperature logs to ensure proper cooking temperatures, cooling methods, storage temperatures
  • Signage and wall charts to show continuous improvements (identified through internal audits, temperature logs, training records, or health department inspections)

The key step to implementing a food safety culture is to build cooperation between management and staff, and fully engage employees in the process. Management modeling proper behaviors is critical for employees to learn and value these practices, and have them firmly embedded in their minds so they will follow suit. Positive reinforcement of successes and good behaviors helps to further motivate employees to continue them long-term. Be persistent and strive for continuous improvement in your food safety program, and you can achieve a food safety culture that will perpetuate itself over time.

**FDA 2017 Food Code