The Clock is Ticking: Understanding the Time Limits for TCS Foods - TSC Associates

The Clock is Ticking: Understanding the Time Limits for TCS Foods

In the hustle and bustle of daily life, it’s easy to overlook one critical aspect of food safety—how long can food be left out before it becomes a potential hazard? The answer to this question is crucial, especially when it comes to Time/Temperature Control for Safety (TCS) foods. Let’s delve into the importance of time limits for food safety and explore the guidelines that can help keep your meals not only delicious but also safe.

What is a TCS food?

TCS foods, also known as Time/Temperature Control for Safety foods, are those that require careful handling to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria. These foods include meat, poultry, fish, dairy products, eggs, cooked rice, and other dishes containing these ingredients. The reason for their classification as TCS foods lies in their susceptibility to bacterial growth when exposed to the Temperature Danger Zone—between 41°F (5°C) and 135°F (57°C).

How long can I leave food out?

Holding TCS food at the correct internal temperature is imperative to prevent foodborne illness. Just remember: Keep Hot Foods Hot and Cold Foods Cold. Hot foods should be held at 135°F (57°C) or higher. Cold foods should be held at 41°F (5°C) or lower. Food temperature should be checked at least every four hours. Any foods that fall into the Temperature Danger Zone should be thrown out.

Can foods be held without temperature control?

Hot foods can be held without temperature control for up to four hours if the food is held at 135°F (57°C) or higher before removing it from the temperature control.

Cold foods can be left out for six hours if the temperature does not exceed 70°F (21°C). Food should be discarded if it exceeds this temperature and/or has been sitting out for six hours.

With the holidays quickly approaching, it’s important to remember the rules for holding TCS foods at your food establishment or at your family gatherings. For more information about safely serving food, you can take our ServSafe Food Manager classes. To learn more about programs you can put into practice at your food establishment, contact TSC Associates today!

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