The Temperature Danger Zone

Temperature Danger Zone image

How to End Temperature Abuse

With takeout and delivery becoming more popular as people limit the time they spend out of the house, food is even more at risk for temperature abuse. Cooking and storing food at the wrong temperature causes bacteria to multiply at a rapid pace and can lead to foodborne illness.

To prevent temperature abuse and protect your customers from foodborne illnesses, let’s look more at what temperature abuse is, how it happens, and how you can stop it.

What is Temperature Abuse?

Temperature abuse happens when cooked food is left out at room temperature for too long, and the temperature of the food drops into the temperature danger zone. It occurs either because of improper storage, cooking or reheating.

The Temperature Danger Zone

The temperature danger zone is the temperature range in which foodborne bacteria can grow. The USDA says the temperature ranges from 41°F – 135°F

When food is in between these two temperatures bacteria can double every 20 minutes. The longer the food is left in the danger zone, the more the pathogens will multiply.

How Does Food End Up in the Temperature Danger Zone?

Knowing how food ends up in the temperature danger zone will help prevent temperature abuse. There are a few ways that food might end up in the temperature danger zone.

1. Food not cooked to the correct internal temperature

If food is undercooked, then this can lead to food being in the temperature danger zone. Check the internal temperature to make sure that the food is cooked properly.

If you are unsure of cooking temperatures, check out our recommended internal temperature information sheet.

2. Food not held at the proper temperature

Holding food at the correct temperature can be a challenge. Especially when it comes to delivery.

It’s important that your delivery drivers understand the importance of keeping the food at the correct temperature. Make sure that food is not left out for too long—putting food in the temperature danger zone and giving bacteria a chance to multiply.

In the kitchen, make sure your refrigerators and freezers are at the right temperature to avoid the temperature danger zone.

3. Incorrect cooling or reheating of food

Food that is reheated must reach a minimum internal temperature of at least 165°F for 15 seconds. Reheating must be done rapidly, and the minimum temperature must be reached within two hours (although we recommend as soon as possible). Again, use a thermometer to make sure.

Freezing food must be stored at a temperature of 41°F or below. Like reheating, this must be done within 2 hours of cooking, but ideally as soon as possible.

Ways to Stop Temperature Abuse

The main way to protect against temperature abuse is to give your staff the correct training and tools to monitor the temperature of your food, both in and out of your establishment. It is your responsibility to provide the correct equipment and training to your staff.

Make sure that your staff is food safety trained and understands the process from start to finish when it comes to stopping temperature abuse.


Make sure everyone in your organization who needs access to a thermometer has one. This way food can be checked from the kitchen to the customer.

Temperature Logs

Make sure that your staff writes down the food temperatures to make others aware of the food that has been cooked. Having temperature logs also ensures that thermometers are being used and checked regularly.

Always Food Safe offers the following free downloads to help you monitor temperatures in your kitchen:

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