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Temperature Monitoring

Temperature Monitoring.

The main problems with taking temperatures in retail cabinets are the choice of equipment and the necessity to have suitably trained staff available to conduct the checks.

It must be noted that the Regulations do not lay down how to take temperature readings and therefore, any equipment that gives an indication of the temperature at which a cabinet is operating is valid.

However, the products on sale will certainly be checked by the Enforcement Officer with accurate equipment and if the food is not at the correct temperature you may face prosecution.

Types of Thermometer

All thermometers have two key parts:

  • A sensor which gives the temperature of the place where it is located
  • A reading scale or display
  • In Place Simple Devices

The simplest devices are self-adhesive liquid crystal display strips and dial or digital thermometers built in to the cabinet.

These are generally adequate, but as they measure air temperature they only give an approximate indication of the product temperature.

Glass Thermometers

Because of the risk of breakage and contamination of foods these thermometers are not recommended where any open foods are handled.

Electronic Probe Thermometers

Of varying accuracy and expense. Must be calibrated and checked regularly. Hand-held probes of this type are used by most enforcement officers. A variety of sensor probes can be obtained for the one electronic unit. Some manufacturers now provide a hand-held unit with a number of plug-in sensors that can be fixed to monitor several cabinets.
Manufacturers' instructions on use should be followed.

Automatic Air Temperature Monitoring

A system that fits each cabinet with the appropriate number of sensors each wired back to a control box in an office. Temperatures are monitored continually and any deviation from fixed levels (allowing for defrost) usually sets off an alarm.
This system is really only suitable for larger premises and whilst initially expensive, provides constant monitoring and, usually, printed records.
Infra-Red Probes
These are relatively new devices, which enable rapid temperature measurements of product surfaces. These are best used for screening of product and care should be taken if using this method exclusively.
108 Food Safety (General Food Hygiene) Regulations 1995 – Guide to compliance by Retailers

Methods of Temperature Recording

Before taking any temperature reading it is important to establish whether the cabinet operates an automatic defrost cycle. (Refer to manufacturer's instructions). If it does defrost automatically then it will usually do so at least once per day and readings taken within one hour of defrosting will not be reliable. Readings should not be made immediately after re-stocking.

Air Temperature

This may be carried out using a hand-held probe which is placed in the cabinet. By holding the probe at various points where the food is stacked a good approximation of cabinet or coldstore temperature can be established. Tests may have to be conducted to establish the correlation of air and product temperature or manufacturer's advice taken.

Placing the probe at the "air off" point marked on Diagram A will give the temperature of the air coming off the refrigeration unit.

"Air on" gives the temperature of air returning from the cabinet to the refrigeration unit and will therefore represent the highest air temperature in the cabinet.