Cooling and Reheating Meals
Thanks to Liz Beaglehole – Registered Dietitian for contributing the below article –
With the introduction of the Food Act 2014 and the requirement for most aged care facilities to have registered their food control plan (FCP) by March 2018, I thought I would write this article on a common kitchen practice that will require review. This relates to one important key component of food safety.
FCP’s are included in the policy and procedure documentation provided by HCSL specifically designed for residential care facilities.
In many facilities the main meal is served in the middle of the day and the tea meal served at night. The main cook of the day will prepare the tea meal earlier in the afternoon, and then finish his or her shift. The tea meal will be reheated by the afternoon staff and served to the residents.
The process of cooking, cooling and reheating requires careful control of the food safety risk. Many tea options are protein or carbohydrate based; macaroni cheese, egg dishes, savoury mince, chicken options – all of which are high risk foods for bacteria growth.
Foods need to be cooled quickly to avoid time and temperature abuse, which may allow bacteria growth. The guidelines state that when cooling hot cooked foods, the food must cool to at least 21° within the first two hours, and then cool to below 5° in four more hours. Overall, the food must be out of the danger zone (between 5°C and 60°C) within six hours.
A functioning chiller should allow cooked foods to cool within this timeframe. Using domestic fridges that are overcrowded, may mean the cooling guidelines are not met. Using shallow dishes rather than large deep dishes will also allow foods to cool faster.
The food control plan will specify the process the site kitchen must follow with regards to cooling of cooked food. Temperatures during cooling will need to be checked and recorded to ensure the time / temperature targets are met.
Prior to serving, the food must be reheated to above 75°C.
Some sites choose to hold the prepared food hot until service. Food must be held hot at a temperature of at least 60°C, usually in a bain-marie or oven at 70°C. Any food held below 60°C for more than 2 hours, must be thrown out. Note that holding foods hot for this period of time may affect the food quality.
- Food safety risk with cooling and reheating foods must be managed with FCP
- Cool cooked food to below 21°C in 2 hours and below 5°C in 4 hours
- Reheat foods to above 75°C before service
- Hold hot prepared foods at 60°C or more
- Document food temperatures and any corrective action
- Review corrective action implementation to ensure they have been effective
Article contributed by:
NZ Registered Dietitian