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Summer trading: How to keep food safe as the temperature rises

by Sophie Haigh | Read Time: 5 Minutes | Jun 27, 2019

Hot weather provides the perfect opportunity for bacteria to grow, so it’s crucial that over the next few months you keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold until they are ready to be eaten.

We’ve put together a list of check points to ensure you’re keeping you and your staff safe as temperatures rise. You’d be well advised to make sure your staff are also aware of the dangers of rapid bacteria growth and contamination from insects during the summer.

Keeping food safe from contamination

Keeping and displaying food properly is pivotal if you want to lower the risk of contamination. Covering food or keeping it screened where possible will protect it from contamination from insects, birds and animals. Remember, you should never store food on the floor.

When there’s no access to electricity

If you don’t have access to electricity in your catering van, cool boxes are the next best thing for keeping food chilled during transportation and when stationary on site. You will need adequate freezer packs to prevent the food from rising above 8°C or 46°F. Make sure to take enough freezer packs so that you can replace them two or three times throughout the working day to keep the temperature inside the cool box within the 8°C limit.

A probe thermometer is also a necessity if you’re using cool boxes, as it checks to see if the temperature inside is safe to be storing food.  Make sure to check the temperature at regular intervals and record it in the daily recording diary – found in your NCASS Due Diligence folder. Remember to always replace the lid of the cool box immediately after opening and removing an item.

Cool boxes should also be kept out of sunlight and away from any sources of heat to give your food the best chance of remaining fresh and at the safe temperature limit.

Temperature regulations for food products

It’s crucial to keep food at the right temperature before and during preparation to remain safe. Failure to do so will provide the perfect environment for harmful bacteria to grow, or for toxins, i.e. poisons, to form in the food, causing your customers to become seriously ill. Make sure that both you and your staff know that:

  • Hot food must be kept above 63°C (145°F)
  • Chilled food must be kept at or below 8°C (46°F), preferably below 5°C (41°F)
    You might already be aware that when you’re serving or displaying food there is a little bit of leeway for keeping them out of temperature controls at times for a limited period, although we don’t recommend letting food drop or rise to these temperatures.

  • Hot food can be kept below 63°C (145°F) for a maximum of 2 hours if completely necessary
  • Chilled food can be kept above 8°C (46°F) for a maximum of 4 hours but try to prevent this from happening if possible

It goes without saying that you must never exceed these times and temperatures. If you do, dispose of the food straight away as they could be dangerous to eat.

The temperature requirements in Scotland vary slightly, but in all four corners of the UK it’s an offence to keep food at temperatures that would cause a risk to health.

Other key things to remember

  • When you use a temperature probe to check the temperature of the foods you’re chilling or keeping hot, be sure to clean and disinfect the probe thoroughly before use. We recommend using a commercial grade cleaner, as they fight germs both quickly and efficiently. Cheap products unfortunately just won’t cut it as they take a long time to kick in and take effect – not ideal when you’re having to work quickly to serve up food
  • When cooking, the food must achieve a minimum core temperature of 75°C (167°F)


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