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Changes to Cold Holding Temperatures in NC

On January 1st, 2019, cold holding temperature requirement for Time/Temperature Control for Safety (TCS) foods changed from 45°F to 41°F. As a result, your local environmental health specialist may now deduct points for failure to comply. For additional information, click here.

Importance of Changes
Federal estimates indicate that there are about 48 million cases of foodborne illness annually. TCS foods reading at a temperature between 41° to 135°F will cause bacteria to grow at dangerous levels which could lead to several foodborne illnesses. Current science, research, and key stakeholders support reducing temperatures from 45°F to 41°F to provide the safest food for all consumers and prevent foodborne illness.

How Listeria Outbreaks May Occur

  • Food can be contaminated with listeria in the manufacturing environment and then continue to grow at refrigerated temperatures once in a food establishment.
  • Food equipment (slicers, milk shake machines, etc.) may be contaminated with listeria and cause contamination of food products when used in a food establishment.
  • When outbreaks occur, they have led to devastating human cost along with a potential irreparable reputation.

Why is this Change Happening?

  • Pathogens, such as Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus, can grow at 45°F, but not at 41°F.
  • Listeria monocytogenes is a species of bacteria that can cause serious illness in certain people, such as pregnant women, the elderly, and immune-compromised people.
  • Listeria grows at a much faster rate at 45°F than it does at 41°F
  • When illness from listeria occurs, it leads to more hospitalizations than any other food borne pathogen and is responsible for one-third of mortality.
  • Holding cold food at 41°F or below, instead of 45°F or below, is the safest way to protect customers from illness.

What Can You Do?

  • Take temperatures often to ensure food is below 41°F.
  • Do not overfill food containers in preparation coolers, and make sure that food is below 41°F before placing into cold holding units. To determine if you can get your food cooled in the appropriate amount of time, click here for NCDPH’s Cooling Calculator.
  • Ensure equipment has regular maintenance and adequate internal and external air flow

Code Sections Affected by this Change

  • 3-501.12 – Slacking
  • 3-501.13 – Thawing
  • 3-501.14 – Cooling
  • 3-501.16 – Cold Holding
  • 3-501.17 – Date Marking
  • 3-501.19 – Time as a Public Health Control
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