The restaurant industry is governed by strict regulations when it comes to food safety. One of the most critical aspects of food safety is time and temperature control. Time and temperature control for safety, or TCS food, must be kept at specific temperatures to prevent bacteria from growing.
If you’re wondering what TCS food is, here’s what you need to know.
TCS Food: What Does TCS Stand for In Food?
TCS food stands for time temperature control for safety food. TCS food requires time temperature control for safety to limit pathogenic microorganism growth or toxin formation.
Pathogenic microorganisms are bacteria, viruses, or parasites that can cause illness. When these microorganisms grow or produce toxins in food, they can cause foodborne illness. Time temperature control for safety helps prevent the growth of these microorganisms and the formation of toxins.
In order to ensure that TCS food remains safe to eat, it is important to follow proper TCS food storage and handling procedures. Foods should be stored at the correct temperature and kept refrigerated for up to two hours.
When preparing TCS food, it is important to use clean restaurant equipment, utensils, and surfaces. Hands should be washed thoroughly before handling any food.
TCS food can be safely consumed if it has been properly stored and handled. However, if you are unsure about the safety of a particular food, it is always best to err on the side of caution and throw it out. TCS food that has been contaminated with bacteria can cause food poisoning, which can be severe or even fatal.
What Is a TCS Food?
A TCS food is a term used to refer to foods that require time temperature control for safety. It is a food item that is considered to be potentially hazardous and thus requires special handling.
Foods classified as TCS foods risk becoming contaminated with bacteria or other microorganisms if they are not stored and handled correctly.
What Are the Characteristics of TCS Food?
The five factors/characteristics used to determine whether a food is a TCS food are:
- Acidity (pH)
- Moisture content
- Acidity and moisture interaction
- Heat treatment
List of TCS Foods
- Meat products (beef, pork, and lamb)
- Milk and Dairy products
- Cream or Custard
- Shellfish (crustaceans)
- Egg Dishes
- Tofu and other soy products
- Cooked / Baked Potatoes
- Soups and Stews
- Sprouts or Sprouted Seeds
- Cut Leafy Greens
- Cut Tomatoes and Melons
- Cooked Rice, Pasta, Beans, Grains, and Vegetables
- Untreated Garlic and Oil Mixtures
What Is the Temperature Danger Zone?
The temperature danger zone is the range of temperatures between 40°F and 140°F (4.4°C and 60°C) in which pathogens can grow rapidly. Time and temperature are both critical factors in the growth of foodborne pathogens.
Pathogens can double in number every 20 minutes at temperatures within this range, making it crucial to keep foods out of the temperature danger zone. Foods left in the temperature danger zone for more than 2 hours should be discarded to prevent foodborne illness. Additionally, if the temperature is above 90 degrees Fahrenheit, foods should not be left out for more than 1 hour.
Temperature controls are required when handling TCS foods. Part of these standards includes maintaining the food at proper safe temperatures. Let’s take a closer look.
- Cold Holding: The temperature for cold-holding foods should be 41℉.
- Hot Holding: The temperature for hot-holding foods should be 135℉.
- Reheating / Warming: 165° is the recommended reheating temperature for all cooked food that has been cooled. For commercially processed and packaged foods and vegetables, the recommended reheating temperature is 135°.
- Thawing: Always thaw frozen food under refrigeration at 41℉, cold running water, or as part of the cooking process – never at room temperature.
- Cooking: Cooking times and temperatures vary depending on the type of food being cooked. Poultry should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165°F, same with stuffed meats, poultry, fish, and pasta. Ground beef and other chopped or ground meats should be cooked at 155°F while Solid portions of fish, meat, and beef should be cooked at 145° F.
- Cooling: Cooked TCS foods must be cooled from 135°F to 70°F within two hours and then from 70°F to 41°F within an additional four hours. This can be accomplished by placing the food in a shallow pan and refrigerating it or using an ice bath.
Simply put, TCS food is any food that needs to be stored at the right temperature to prevent bacteria and other microorganisms from growing. In addition to potentially harmful bacteria and viruses, toxins can also form in TCS foods, so handling these foods carefully and following special storage guidelines is important.
How Long Can Food Be Left Out?
The maximum time that food can be safely left out is 4 hours. After 4 hours, bacteria can start to grow on the food, which can lead to food poisoning.
To avoid this, refrigerate or freeze any perishable foods within 4 hours of cooking or purchasing them. If you’re unsure whether a food is perishable, err on caution and assume it is.
If you need to leave food out for more than 4 hours, ensure it’s in a cool area (below 40 degrees Fahrenheit) and keep it covered as much as possible. Raw poultry, eggs, meat and fish should never be left out for more than 2 hours.
Following these guidelines will help ensure that your food is safe to eat.
What Is the Best Way to Keep TCS Foods Safe?
There are many ways to keep TCS foods safe, but some methods are more effective than others. One of the most important things to do is to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. This helps prevent the growth of bacteria that can cause food poisoning.
Another way to keep TCS foods safe is to cook them properly. This means cooking meat and poultry until they are no longer pink in the middle and cooking eggs until the yolks are firm. It is also important to avoid cross-contamination by keeping raw meat and poultry away from other food items.
Finally, it is important to practice good hygiene when handling TCS foods. This means washing your hands thoroughly after handling food items and keeping surfaces and utensils clean.
Frequently Asked Questions About TCS Food
When it comes to food safety, time and temperature are two of the most important factors to consider. In this section, we will answer some of the most common questions people have about TCS Food.
What Is Not Considered a TCS Food?
Several foods do not require heating or refrigeration for food safety and therefore are not considered TCS foods. These include:
- Potato chips
- Bottled juices and sodas
- Dry goods like cereal, grains, and pasta
- Dry baked goods without perishable toppings or fillings
- Solid candies and chocolate
Where Must You Store TCS Foods?
You must store TCS foods in a refrigerator. The food should be cooled from 135° to 70° Fahrenheit for two hours or less, then cooled from 70° down to 40° F in the next four hours. The entire cooling process shouldn’t take more than six total hours. This helps prevent the growth of pathogens that can cause foodborne illness.
If you’re unable to store TCS foods at 41°F or below, there are special procedures you must follow in order to keep them safe. For example, if you’re serving hot TCS food—it must be kept at 135°F or above.
Is Dry Flour a TCS Food?
Dry flour is not technically a TCS food, but it can become one if it’s not stored properly. If dry flour is exposed to moisture, mold and bacteria can start to grow. That’s why it’s important to keep dry flour in an airtight container and away from any sources of moisture.
What Must Be Marked On TCS?
All TCS food must be clearly marked with the following information:
- The name of the food
- The date the food was prepared
- The expiration date of the food
- The name and address of the food establishment where the food was prepared
- Any special storage, shipping and handling instructions for the food
- The identity of any allergens present in the food
Why Is It Important to Follow the Proper Procedures When Handling TCS Food?
Time temperature control for safety food must be kept at certain temperatures to prevent bacterial growth. Bacteria can grow quickly at warm temperatures, so it is important to follow the proper procedures to ensure that the food stays safe to eat in your restaurant.