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Food Temperature Danger Zone

7 July 2023

Food temperature Danger Zone is between 5°C and 63°C. Bacteria that cause food poisoning grow at temperatures between 5°C and 63°C above refrigeration temperatures and below cooking temperatures. This is why this temperature range is considered to be a Danger Zone. However, the bacteria grow best at warm temperatures, approximately 25° to 40°C.

If food is kept out of the Danger Zone, either cold at refrigeration temperatures less than 5°C, or hot at greater than 63°C, most bacteria will stop growing, although they do not die. Therefore, food should be kept hot in a hot holding cabinet or kept cold in a refrigerated display unit to prevent any bacteria that may be present on the food from multiplying.


Dangers of the Danger Zone

Keeping high-risk foods out of the food temperature Danger Zone is essential to stop harmful bacteria growing to dangerous levels. The more time that food spends in the Danger Zone, the greater the risks are. It is therefore vitally important that close attention is paid to time and temperature controls throughout the ‘farm-to-fork’ process.

Food handlers should be aware of the following situations where food can spend too much time in the Danger Zone and cause a food hazard:

  • Leaving food to stand at room temperature.
  • Heating too slowly.
  • Cooling too slowly.
  • Leaving food in direct sunlight.
  • Combining hot and cold foods.


Food Temperature Danger Zone and Temperature Controls

The risk of bacteria multiplying to dangers levels can be reduced by:

  • Always keeping hot food hot (above 63°C) and cold foods cold (below 5°C).
  • Minimising the time between preparing and serving food.
  • Never leaving food out on counter tops at room temperature.
  • Keeping food in a hot or cold display – never allow the food to be left sitting on top where customers can contaminate the food by handling or sneezing.
  • Ensuring there is a sufficient space to carry out food preparation safely. There should also be sufficient space for food storage.
  • Never using food past its Use by date as it could be unsafe. Using or selling food past its Use by date is illegal. Food can be used after its Best before date provided that the food is still in acceptable condition. Where this is done however, it is strongly recommended to indicate to the consumer that the food is past its Best before date.
  • Ensuring good stock rotation for all foods whether stored in a hot cabinet, fridge or dry goods store.


The Most Common Food Poisoning Bacteria

The most common food poisoning bacteria are:

  • Salmonela bacteria. Salmonela are most commonly found in poultry but are also found in pig meat and other foods. Salmonela food poisoning is mainly associated with eating contaminated chicken and eggs and their products.
  • Campylobacter has relatively recently been recognised as causing food poisoning and now it exceeds Salmonella as the leading cause of bacterial food poisoning in Ireland. It is present in a wide range of animals and birds and is commonly found on raw poultry meat.
  • E. coli O157 and related E. coli are found in the gut of cattle and is mainly associated with eating undercooked minced beef, e.g. beef burgers, but cross contamination from raw meat can transfer these bacteria to other foods. They can cause serious illness and may even result in death.
  • Staphylococcus aureus is typically found on the hands and in and around the nose of healthy adults. During food preparation food handlers can easily transfer it on to food.


Additional useful information on how the spread of food poisoning bacteria can be stopped can be found in Temperature Control page of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI).


Online Food Safety Training

Please remember – it is a legal requirement that staff who are involved in a food environment are trained and/or supervised commensurate with their work activity!

Myelearnsafety offers fully online Food Safety (HACCP) courses.

To find out more, please check our Courses page.

Alternatively, should you need any additional information, please do not hesitate to let us know via email