Safe food display in your food business is critical to ensuring that the food you provide to consumers is safe.

Safe food display is achieved by displaying food below 5 degrees celsius and above 60 degrees celsius however there is another way of displaying potentially hazardous food called the four hour, two hour rule but it is important to understand how the method works.

The Food Standards Code requires food business to store potentially hazardous food below 5 degrees celsius or alternatively above 60 degrees celsius to minimise the growth of bacteria such as Salmonella, E.coli and Camplylobacter that may cause food borne illness.

However section 25 of Standard 3.2.2 Food Safety Practices and General Requirements gives food businesses the option of using alternative methods of compliance provided the microbiological safety of the food is not jeopardised.

This should not be seen as a loophole or an alternative to good temperature control.

The method is best utilised in busy food premises such as cafes that prepare large numbers of sandwiches or salads for a busy period such as lunch time.

In summary:

  • Food that has been between 5 and 60 degrees c. for less than 2 hrs can be refrigerated or used immediately.
  • Food that has been between 5 and 60 degrees c. for longer than 2 hrs and less than 4 hrs must be used immediately.
  • Food that has been between 5 and 60 degrees c. for longer than 4 hrs must be thrown out.

In practice this means that when food such as sandwiches are stored at greater than 5 degrees celcius in a retail display they cannot be removed and refrigerated for later use eg the next day.

Food that has been in the retail display for longer than 4 hours at greater than 5 degrees celsius must be removed and discarded.

It is also important to consider preparation time and include it in the time period out of temperature control eg if it takes 30 minutes to prepare a batch of sandwiches and you commence preparation at 11.00 am then the unsold food must be removed from sale and discarded at 3.00 pm.

Put simply the clock starts at the commencement of preparation rather than when it is placed in the display.

Don’t forget your ingredients. They are subject to the same criteria so ingredients that have been out of temperature control for two hours or greater cannot be placed back into the coolroom for later use. Best practice is to remove ingredients from refrigeration in small batches that can be used up in the ½ hour preparation time.

To use this alternative method of safe food display you need to be able to demonstrate to an authorised officer i.e. a council food inspector that:

  • Receival, storage and preparation temperatures are adequate.
  • Food should not be stored at greater than 25 degrees celsius.
  • The system must be documented and you must be able to demonstrate that you are complying through the use of work instructions and records.
  • The food must be identified.
  • The food must be removed from sale and discarded after 4 hrs.
  • Potentially hazardous food must still be cooled adequately and you need to demonstrate compliance by keeping cooling records.

The NSW Food Authority has a great guide to the 4 hour 2 hour rule and safe food display in general.

Functional Food Safety can assist you to set up safe food display systems tailored to your food business.

Our food safety consultant can include procedures into your existing food safety program or develop and implement a stand-alone procedure.

We can also assist you with implementing a HACCP based food safety program that will ensure your food business prepares and sells safe food.

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