Leaving food out too long at room temperature can cause bacteria (such as Staphylococcus aureus,Salmonella Enteritidis,Escherichia coli O157:H7, and Campylobacter) to grow to dangerous levels that can cause illness. Bacteria grow most rapidly in the range of temperatures between 41 °F and 135 °F, doubling in number in as little as 20 minutes.
This range of temperatures between 41 °F and 135 °F is called the “Danger Zone.”
Time as a Public Health Control
Time – maximum up to 4 hours
Temperature control is used as the public health control for a working supply of TIME/TEMPERATURE CONTROL FOR SAFETY FOOD before cooking, or for READY-TO-EAT TIME/TEMPERATURE CONTROL FOR SAFETY FOOD that is displayed or held for sale or service:
(1) Written procedures shall be prepared in advance, maintained in the FOOD ESTABLISHMENT and made available to the REGULATORY AUTHORITY upon request that specify:
- If time without temperature control is used as the public health control up to a maximum of 4 hours:
- The FOOD shall have an initial temperature of 41ºF or less when removed from cold holding temperature control, or 135°F or greater when removed from hot holding temperature control;
- The FOOD shall be marked or otherwise identified to indicate the time that is 4 hours past the point in time when the FOOD is removed from temperature control;
- The FOOD shall be cooked and served, served at any temperature if READY-TO-EAT, or discarded, within 4 hours from the point in time when the FOOD is removed from temperature control; and
- The FOOD in unmarked containers or PACKAGES, or marked to exceed a 4-hour limit shall be discarded.
- If time without temperature control is used as the public health control up to a maximum of 6 hours.
A FOOD ESTABLISHMENT that serves a HIGHLY SUSCEPTIBLE POPULATION may not use time as the public health control.