And so, the chicken hatched as a healthy egg, was transported to the farm under ideal conditions, was raised to it's peak, was processed in a facility that was cold and clean and now, you're eyeing a menu item that features the popular protein. Temperature mattered in all the stages of the poultry's life, and when it comes to storage and preparation in your favorite restaurant, or even at home, things are no different. The bottom line is that temperature always matters to a chicken.
Once the chicken, that you're are craving so bad, gets to the restaurant or the grocery store that you buy from, it is extremely important that it has been stored at cold temperatures since packaging. This is because refrigeration is key in slowing bacterial growth. Unfortunately, bacteria exist everywhere in nature – in the soil, air, water and foods we eat. But when these bacteria have the right conditions, such as nutrients, moisture and favorable temperatures, they can grow extremely rapidly and increase to the point where consumption of them can cause serious human illness.
At this point, you might be able to guess that temperature is one of the biggest factors that affects bacterial growth in perishable foods, like poultry. Where food safety is the top concern for almost every commercial kitchen, temperature, and also time, play a huge role in whether or not food is safe to eat by customers or needs to be thrown away. This means that monitoring and observing appropriate temperatures in refrigeration units is key for foodservice operators who want to decrease the potential of bacterial growth and assure maximum shelf life and food safety.
Today, refrigerated storage is the one of the most widely practiced methods for controlling bacterial growth in perishable foods because bacterial growth slows to a much slower rate in colder temperatures. The growth of bateria, even in refrigerators, does not completely stop it's development – that's why food can still go bad in the refrigerator. Still, in order to minimize spoilage potential, storage of food items in cold temperatures is essential. As a general rule of thumb, the higher the temperature, the greater the potential for microbial growth.
There are two kinds of bacteria that perishable foods are susceptible to contracting: pathogenic bacteria, the kind of microbials that cause food-borne illnesses in consumers, and spoilage bacteria, which is the kind of bacteria that cause foods to develop unpleasant odors, tastes and textures.
Pathogenic bacteria are usually more dangerous because they are more difficult to detect because they do not generally affect the taste, smell or appearance of the infected food. The main pathogens of concern for the foodservice industry are campylobacter, e. coli and salmonella because they are the most common food-borne pathogens associated with human illness in the United States, according to Food Safety Magazine (http://www.foodsafetymagazine.com/magazine-archive1/december-2012january-2013/poultry-safety-in-an-ever-changing-world/). These bacteria grow most rapidly in temperatures dubbed the "Danger Zone", which is the range of temperatures between 40° F and 140° F. That is why refrigeration units must be kept colder than these range of temperatures. If foods like poultry remain in this "Danger Zone" for too long, irreversable damage can be done because there is no way to kill off the present baterias in order to make the food safe for consumption. In some cases, bacterias exposed to "Danger Zone" temperatures can double in as little as 20 mintues! After two hours in warm temperatures, throwing the food away is the only choice, because there will be virtually too much bacteria present.
So for human safety reasons, it is important to control the storage temperature of refrigerated foods up until the time of their preparation. Temperature control is essential, not only to maintain the microbiological safety of the poultry but to minimize changes in the chemical and physical properties of the food. Unfortunately, and this is where the bad news comes. Even though poultry manufacturers and retailers are required to operate under specific temperature standards, past surveys conducted in the U.S. have shown that 20 percent of refrigeration units operate at temperatures under 50° F, not 40° F (http://www.foodsafetymagazine.com/magazine-archive1/december-2005january-2006/issues-in-time-and-temperature-abuse-of-refrigerated-foods/).
But there is good news, and that is, that temperature monitoring and observation doesn't need to be such a time consuming and laborious task. Usually, temperatures are built with thermometers to measure their internal temperatures, or for refrigerator units without this built-in feature, thermometers can be purchased and placed in strategic places in the unit. But actually, there is an even easier way to monitor temperatures in refrigerators to guarantee safety.
With automatic and continuous temperature sensing technologies that can be easily installed in refrigeration units, readings of temperatures can be done without taking time out of the busy kitchen staff's schedule. The automatic readings of temperature take place at consistent intervals of time with temperature sensors, and if temperatures reach dangerously warm or cold levels, alerts are immediately sent to the appropriate people so that problems with perishable foods, like chicken, can be solved before it is too late. For a society that's eating more ad more chicken every day, it would be a shame to have to throw it away before it could be enjoyed just because of improper storage. But, throwing away large amounts of product can be a thing of the past with temperature sensing technology that's easy, affordable and accurate!
As we have discussed for the past couple of weeks, from the chicken egg to your chicken sandwich, temperature matters! To make sure that the product you are consuming is safe, and delicious, adhering to temperature standards is vital and so easy! Wouldn't it be nice if you never had to worry about food-borne illness from poultry again? With temperature@lert systems, it's not just wishful thinking, it's reality.
Kate Hofberg, Epicurean Essayist
Temperature@lert’s resident foodie from sunny Santa Barbara, Kate Hofberg, creates weekly blog posts, manages the content database, and assists with the marketing team's projects. Balancing a love for both the west and east coast, Hofberg studied at University of California Santa Barbara, where she received a Bachelors in Communications, and Boston University, where she is currently a Masters candidate in Journalism. Before coming to Temperature@lert, Hofberg trained in her foodie ways through consumption of extremely spicy, authentic Mexican food with her three brothers and managing a popular Santa Barbara beachside restaurant. Through her training and love of great food, she brings fresh methods of cooking up content. When Hofberg is not working on Temperature@lert marketing endeavors, she serves as a weekly opinion columnist for the Boston University independent student-run newspaper, The Daily Free Press. If time permits, Hofberg enjoys long walks, reading, playing with her cat, and eating pizza. Her ideal temperature is 115°F because she loves temperatures as hot and spicy as her food.