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The Do's And Don'ts Of TCS Foods

Always Prioritise Safety when Dealing with TCS Foods

If you run a restaurant or food distribution business, you often deal with food safety guidelines, particularly those related to time and temperature control for safety (TCS) foods. For example, temperature-controlled food supplies need to be held at a specific temperature from the time they are prepared to ensure they remain safe for consumption. This guide will explain what TCS foods mean, the problems that come out of not having them appropriately stored, and how to deal with them safely.

Do you know how long you can keep TCS foods?

Because bacteria can proliferate at room temperature, it’s essential to keep TCS (time/temperature control for safety) foods either hot or cold until they’re consumed. Don’t keep TCS foods out at room temperature for longer than 2 hours or 1 hour if the room is warmer than 90 degrees Fahrenheit. That means keeping salads and sandwiches in the refrigerator, more relaxed, or freezer until serving time.

If you don’t plan on eating your food within two hours, you should either keep it warm in a chafing dish or over a pot of simmering water, refrigerate it within one hour after cooking, or freeze it. Never leave cooked food sitting out at room temperature overnight.

Cook meat and poultry to a safe internal temperature as measured with a food thermometer: 145 degrees Fahrenheit for whole hearts (allowing the meat to rest for three minutes before carving or consuming), 160 degrees Fahrenheit for ground meats, and 165 degrees Fahrenheit for all poultry.

With perishable foods, time is the enemy. That’s because time gives harmful bacteria a chance to grow and multiply. TCS foods are safe as long as you handle them properly and follow these guidelines:

  • Keep hot food hot – at or above 140° F
  • Keep cold food cold – at or below 40° F

Do store frozen food at 0 degrees or colder.

When they are transported from cold chain logistics services, properly freeze perishable foods within two hours after purchase (one hour if temperatures are above 90 °F). Keep TCS foods in the fridge or freezer until you’re ready to serve them. If you bought them frozen, keep them frozen until you plan to use them.

When you’re thawing them, thaw food in the refrigerator, cold water, or microwave, not on the counter. Food thawed in cold water or in the microwave must be cooked before refreezing.

Do note the expiration dates.

As a business owner, you have to be aware of the consumption date of all the products that enter your business. Ensure that the products you are buying are prepared to be preserved for a long time. Mark the dates that TCS foods enter your company and throw them away after the expiration date. 

Do follow the protocol for safe food preparation and handling.

Temperature-controlled transport operations are in charge of regulating temperature during transit. Upon delivery, food and beverage businesses must now handle this task. When preparing, handling, and storing food at restaurants and other food outlets, wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before preparing any TCS food. Wash your hands after any time you’ve touched non-food items such as garbage bags, money, pens, and telephones. Your employees must do the same thing every time they handle TCS foods.

Don’t wear jewelry on your hands or arms while handling TCS foods, including watches and wedding bands. Rings can catch on equipment like knives, causing injury to you and possible contamination of the food.

Use separate cutting boards for raw meats, poultry, and seafood to avoid contaminating cooked foods or other fresh foods with bacteria from the raw products. If you only have one cutting board, clean it in a dishwasher or by scrubbing with hot water, soap, and a brush after each use.

Never put cooked meat on a plate with raw meat unless the container has been washed in hot soapy water first. Never taste food to see if it’s done — use a thermometer to check the internal temperature, which is more reliable than colour or texture changes.

Don't assume the food is safe because it "looks, smells, and tastes" good.

Why would it make you sick if the food looks, smells, and tastes good? It’s a common question that health inspectors are asked. The truth is that food poisoning bacteria doesn’t change how food looks, smells, or tastes. They make people sick.

You should follow all safety guidelines to avoid any contamination. Any time TCS food is left out at room temperature for an extended period, bacteria growth can begin. When bacteria are found in TCS food and start to spread, it can lead to various conditions, including diarrhea and dysentery—especially among those with weakened immune systems.

While it may be inconvenient to clean up, the potential health risks of improperly handled TCS foods are even more so. One of the most critical steps in keeping TCS food safe is properly cooking and storing your food, which is hopefully something you already do. However, this doesn’t mean that you should take these rules lightly. When preparing TCS foods such as meat or eggs, you must handle their preparation and cooking with care. 

You know both you and your clients want food that is fresh and at a fair price. But with tons of logistics companies to choose from, it used to be impossible to find a one-stop shop for all your needed logistics support and cold-chain management. TreeLogs changes that.  Sign up with us so we can work with you to understand your business needs and customise a plan that works best for you while providing unmatched services that help manage your cold-chains with ease.