With the UK reaching record breaking temperatures in July and warm weather potentially continuing throughout August, it is important for Food Business Operators to ensure high risk chilled foods are maintained at temperatures below the legal limit of 8°C.
Fridges used for storing high risk foods should be set to operate at or below 5°C and temperatures should be checked at least twice per day.
You should ensure that fridges are subject to regular maintenance and are kept in good condition to ensure they are operating at correct temperatures. Damaged fridge door gaskets can also prevent forming an airtight seal between the fridge and the outside which can allow for cold air to escape.
Fridges should not be overfilled to allow for adequate air circulation to efficiently maintain temperature control.
Where counter-top service fridges are used, the temperature which is displayed on the gauge may not always reflect the actual food temperature. Temperature checks of food with a probe thermometer should be used, instead of relying on the display.
Food Alert also offers advice and instructions to follow in the event of a fridge or freezer breakdown. These can be found within the Document Centre on Alert65:
Alert65 > Document Centre> ALERT65 Document Library > Food hygiene > Emergency procedures – food safety
Use of the ‘4-hour exemption’ rule
Food Business Operators in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland may offer a defence when failing to observe the requirement for foods to be kept at or below 8°C.
The Food Business Operator must be able to prove that the food:
- Was for service or on display for sale
- Had not previously been kept for service or display for sale outside temperature control
- Had been kept for service or on display for sale for a period of less than four hours.
The exemption only permits a single period outside temperature control. Foods displayed outside chill holding under this tolerance should then subsequently be placed under chill temperature control below 8°C until they are served, sold, or discarded.
You must be able to provide evidence to your EHO during an inspection that high-risk foods have not been kept above 8°C for longer than four hours. This could be demonstrated via recording the times the food has been kept outside of chilled temperature control, or utilising other systems such as timestamping.
There is no exemption for high-risk foods outside of chilled temperature control in Scotland.