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Ensure the efficacy of your food thermometer to maximise food safety

Among the most essential commercial kitchen supplies, thermometers are used to ensure that food is stored outside of the food temperature danger zone and served at safe temperatures. Through accurate temperature readings, thermometers can detect when food has not been stored safely preventing thousands of cases of food poisoning, a vital consideration when poor temperature control costs the food industry an estimated $20 billion each year. On 1st February 2021, a national cold training program was initiated to support food safety practices. Designed to improve the knowledge and credentials of the individuals responsible for chilled and frozen food in Australia.

Food Standards Australia & New Zealand (FSANZ) states that ‘the simplest way to meet industry requirements is to ensure that food is received, stored, displayed or transported either very cold (5°C or colder) or very hot (60°C or hotter).’ It is essential that this is understood by individuals across the supply chain. Someone working in a refrigerated truck, or in a hospitality environment should have comprehensive knowledge on how to prevent foods from being exposed to destructive temperatures. Training on the different types of food thermometers and fridge thermometers available and how to use them correctly is therefore essential. Individuals working across the supply chain should understand, for example, how to apply a food thermometer to different kinds of food and packaging for an accurate temperature reading to determine whether it is safe. Probe food thermometers provide rapid temperature readings for various food. The most accurate measurement can be obtained by following these guidelines: 

  • Calibrate the thermometer and check its batteries.
  • Equalise the temperature of the probe with the air surrounding the product to reduce the risk of an inaccurate reading by transmitting heat from the probe to the product.
  • Place the probe between boxes on a pallet or between packages in a carton. The probe should be inserted for a minimum of 60 seconds to obtain an accurate reading.
  • Ensure that the probe is fully inserted to reduce the risk of a misreading due to poor conductivity.
  • Apply pressure for optimal thermal contact.
  • Probe food thermometers can also be inserted a minimum of 2.5cm into the food for an accurate reading.
  • Clean with a dedicated disinfecting cloth, soapy water or alcohol wipes and allow to air-dry.

Food thermometers should be calibrated for optimal temperature readings. When in doubt about a temperature reading obtained by applying the probe to packaging, it is essential to insert the probe into the food for greater clarification of the temperature and to prevent food waste. It’s important to note that a truly accurate food temperature reading can only be obtained by inserting the probe into the core of the food as the surface temperature may differ significantly. The probe on a food thermometer should never be used to penetrate packaging as damage to the sensor could result in an inaccurate reading whilst also contaminating the food itself.

Particular care should be taken when taking temperature readings for meat products as bone, gristle and fat can skew readings. There are more stringent rules around taking temperature readings for meat and poultry products.

Visit the Fildes Food Safety website to browse the range of commercial kitchen supplies including food thermometers and fridge thermometers.

This article is based on a piece titled ‘The Thermometer is the most important tool in the entire cold chain’ written by AFCCC chair Mark Mitchell, originally published in Food & Beverage Industry News, March 2021

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