Food Safety Regulations

Food Safety (Temperature Control) Regulations 1995

These Regulations require certain foods to be held at temperatures that will prevent the growth of harmful bacteria or the formulation of toxins. It is an offence to allow food to be kept at temperatures that would cause a risk to health, so you must make sure that any foods that need temperature control are kept at the right temperature.

Foods that need temperature control must be kept at either:

Hot at or above 63C

Cold at or below 8C

These are the main categories of foods that need temperature control.

Dairy products

Dairy products must be kept chilled unless the packaging says they are 'stable' at room temperature (in other words, they do not need to be chilled to stop them going off). products requiring chilling include many types of milk, yoghurt, cream, foods with a cream filling, dairy-based desserts and certain cheeses.

Cooked products

Many cooked products must be kept chilled until ready to be eaten cold or heated. These include most foods containing eggs, meat, fish, dairy products, cereals, rice, pulses or vegetables. Sandwiches containing any of these ingredients also need to be chilled.

Smoked/cured ready-to-eat meat or fish

Most smoked or cured products must be kept chilled until ready to be eaten cold or heated. These include sliced cured meats like ham, unless the curing method means the product is not perishable at room temperature.

Prepared ready-to-eat foods

Prepared ready-to-eat foods must be kept chilled. These include prepared vegetables (chopped and washed), bags of salad leaves, vegetable salads such as coleslaw, and products containing mayonnaise.

Uncooked or partly cooked pastry and dough products

These include pizzas and fresh pasta containing meat, fish or vegetables. Products must be kept chilled until they are heated. Generally foods that need temperature control will be marked with a 'Use by' date and will be labelled 'keep refrigerated'. Some of the products listed above might be preserved or prepared in a way that changes the need for temperature control. The packaging will indicate this.

Foods that do not need to be chilled

These are the main categories of foods that the Regulations do not require to be chilled.

  • Foods that can be kept at room temperature throughout their shelf life, without causing any health risk. These include some cured/smoked products and certain bakery products. Some of these products have a long shelf life, for example naan breads and some desserts.
  • Food that goes through a preservation process. This includes most canned/dried foods, jams, pickles and sauces, which are not perishable at room temperature until the container is opened or the food rehydrated.
  • Food that must be ripened or matured at room temperature. This includes soft or mould-ripened cheeses. But once they are fully ripened or matured these foods must be chilled while they are stored and/or displayed.
  • Raw food intended for further processing (including cooking) that will ensure the food is fit for human consumption. This includes fresh meat, fish and shellfish, except where it is intended to be eaten raw, for example sushi.
  • Mail order food. Food delivered my mail does not need to be chilled.However, it must not be transported at temperatures that could cause a health risk. Therefore, foods that need chilling should not be sold by mail order, unless they are delivered in a vehicle with an appropriate chilled compartment.

Circumstances where food may be kept outside required temperatures

There are certain circumstances (listed below) where it may not be practical to keep foods at the required temperatures. So the Regulations allow you to keep food out of temperature control for limited periods of time.

  • Service or display. Food displayed in restaurants or cafes, put out on buffets, or served in shops, can be kept out of temperature control for a limited time. However, you must take care not to exceed the maximum display times, because otherwise you could cause a risk to health.
    Foods that normally need to be kept chilled can be kept unchilled for up to four hours, to allow them to be served or displayed. Foods can only be kept unchilled for one period of service or display. After this, any food that is left must be thrown away or chilled until final use.
    Food that will be served hot can be kept below 63C for two hours , for serving or display. After this time, the food must be thrown away or cooled as quickly as possible and then chilled until final use. It must not be kept out of temperature control for more than two hours and must not be reheated more than once.
  • Regulations in Scotland. In Scotland, the Regulations apply slightly differently. A maximum temperature for chilled foods is not specified, but businesses are still required to chill foods if they need to be chilled to keep them safe. Maximum times for keeping foods out of temperature control for service or display are not specified. And when reheated, foods must reach a minimum temperature of 82C (180F).
  • Handling and unloading. Foods can be kept unchilled for a limited time when:
       - food is being loaded or unloaded from a refrigerated vehicle to be delivered to/from food premises.
       - there are unavoidable circumstances, for example when food has to be handled during and after processing, of if equipment is defrosted or temporarily breaks down.
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