Receiving a “critical” health code violation can be devastating to a foodservice business’s efficiency and profitability. The Department of Health defines critical violations as, “more likely than other violations to directly contribute to food contamination, illness, or environmental health hazard,” meaning critical violations could also be putting your customers at risk. These critical health code violations include inadequate cooling or refrigeration temperatures and improper food storage practices. Blast chillers can mitigate these risks and guard against health code violations by minimizing the time food is spent in the danger zone and protecting it from contamination from improper storage.
Minimizing time in the danger zone
Many temperature-related health code violations come from food spending too much time in the “danger zone” — the interim period between cooking temperatures and cooling temperatures — and growing harmful bacteria. Simply putting food in a refrigerator is not adequate to prevent microbiological growth. When large volumes of hot food are cooled, it can take a long time, sometimes as long as 36 hours, to chill the food to a point where pathogen growth is inhibited. In addition, if hot food is placed directly into a powerful walk-in cooler, it can affect the temperature of the cooler, impacting the food safety and quality of other items in the cooler. For example, if 10 pans of hot beans are added to a walk-in, it could take two to three hours for the cooler to come back down to its set temperature. During that time, beans are still cooking and potentially developing bacteria, and any other food in the cooler is not being stored at proper temperatures.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Food Code defines the “danger zone” as between 41° F and 135° F. Food safety and quality guidelines from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommend that food be chilled from 160° F to 37° F in 90 minutes or less and from 160° F to 0° F in two hours or less following HACCP processes.
Blast chillers are specifically designed to minimize the time that cooked food stays in that danger zone by cooling food quickly and eliminating bacteria growth. They help to maintain a vital aspect of food safety and health code compliance.
Protecting food from contamination
Another frequent health code violation includes improperly storing food and risking contamination from outside sources. If food is not sealed properly, it could be contaminated even if it is in a walk-in that is below the mandated 41° F. People are frequently coming in and out of a walk-in, and every time the door opens the fan comes on automatically. Fans stir up dust and debris that might be on the floor or racks and move it around, contaminating the freshly cooked food.
Blast chillers provide a more clean and controlled environment to rapidly chill the food, allowing the user to properly cover the food before it is put into the holding cooler, eliminating the risk of contamination. They also allow you to monitor the exact temperature of the food to ensure you are meeting food safety regulations.
In the fast-paced world of foodservice, it’s so easy to focus on turning tables and getting food out quickly that corners are often cut when it comes to quick cooling and proper storing. Taking extra time to establish food safety procedures and policies will not only go a long way in avoiding health code violations in the future but will also improve the quality of the food and help reduce waste.
Use this tool to make a more accurate product selection in three easy steps.