Tools and Techniques to Promote Proper Food Cooling in Restaurants
Slow cooling of hot foods is a common pathogen proliferation factor contributing to restaurant-related outbreaks. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) model Food Code provides guidelines on the time and temperatures needed for proper cooling and recommends several methods to facilitate rapid food cooling. Restaurants continue to struggle with proper cooling even given these guidelines (Hedeen & Smith, 2020). Research summarized in this guest commentary indicates that portioning foods into containers with a depth of <3 in. and ventilating the containers during the cooling process promote rapid cooling. Restaurant operators and health department inspectors could use these cooling methods to maximize cooling efforts. Additionally, a simple method (using a mathematical equation) could help restaurant operators and inspectors to estimate the cooling rates of foods. This simple method uses only two food temperatures taken at any two points in the cooling process (using the equation [Log(T1 - Tdf) - Log(T2 - Tdf)]/dt) to estimate whether the food is expected to meet FDA cooling guidelines. This method allows operators and inspectors to identify foods unlikely to meet FDA guidelines and take corrective actions on those foods without having to monitor food temperatures for the entire cooling process, which typically takes 6 hr. More research is underway to further refine aspects of this method.
Speaker / Author:
Nicole D. Hedeen, MS, RS, Environmental Health Division, Minnesota Department of Health
Donald Schaffner, PhD, Food Science Department, Rutgers University
Laura Green Brown, PhD, National Center for Environmental Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention