Temperature control: food safety tips

Use a fridge thermometer to check the temperature of your fridge regularly. The coldest part of the fridge should be between 0 degrees Celcius and 5 degrees Celcius (32 degrees Fahrenheit and 41 degrees Fahrenheit).

You could use a probe thermometer to check if food is being kept hot (above 63 degrees Celcius) or cold (below 8 degrees Celcius). Make sure you always clean the thermometer thoroughly every time you use it, before and after putting it in the food.

Chilled storage of foods

Some foods need to be kept chilled to keep them safe, for example food with a ‘use by’ date, food that you have cooked and won’t serve immediately, or other ready-to-eat food such as prepared salads. If these foods are not properly chilled, bacteria can grow and make people ill.

What you need to do

  • aim to keep the coldest part of your fridge between 0 degrees Celcius and 5 degrees Celcius (32 degrees Fahrenheit and 41 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • keep a fridge thermometer in the coldest part and check the temperature regularly
  • keep the most perishable foods, like cooked meats, in the coldest part of the fridge
  • return perishable foods to the fridge or freezer as soon as possible after use
  • remember to keep raw food below ready-to-eat food in the fridge, or use separate fridges for raw and ready-to-eat food, if possible
  • wrap or cover all raw or uncooked foods so that they can't touch or drip on other foods and contaminate them
  • to keep the fridge cold, don't overload it or leave the door open longer than necessary
  • don't put hot food in the fridge - let it cool first
  • don't keep food beyond its "use by" date
  • empty any part-used can into a bowl and cover it, otherwise the tin may contaminate the food
  • follow storage instructions given on food packages

How to check

  • check chilled food on delivery to make sure it’s cold
  • check that food that needs to be chilled is put in the fridge as soon as it arrives
  • check regularly that your fridge and display units are cold enough
  • check the time between cooking food and chilling it - this shouldn’t be longer than one to two hours
  • remember, chilled food must be kept below 8 degrees Celcius, ideally 5 degrees Celcius

When you’re serving or displaying chilled food you can keep it above 8 degrees Celcius for a maximum of four hours. You can only do this once. Then you must throw away the food or keep it chilled until it’s used.


It is important to cool food as quickly as possible in order to prevent the growth of bacteria. Ideally this should be cooled to less than 8 degrees Celcius within 90 minutes.

Food can be cooled quickly by a variety of methods. These include:

  • dividing food into smaller amounts
  • placing food in shallow dishes
  • running cold water through foods eg. rice
  • placing a container of hot foods in an ice water bath
  • placing in a cool part of the kitchen or cool food room (ensure it is properly covered to protect against contamination)
  • using a fan to blow air across the food (ensure the fan is in a clean condition)

Hot foods

Hot foods must be stored above 63 degrees Celcius to prevent the excessive growth of bacteria. Hot foods can be kept below this temperature for a maximum of two hours before being used, returned to above 63 degrees Celcius or chilled.