MadgeTech Blog — Food Safety

What are TCS Foods?

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What are TCS foods?

One of many abbreviations used in the food processing industry, TCS stands for time/temperature control for safety. In short, this refers to foods that require a specific time and temperature controls to remain safe. Understanding what TCS foods are and how to prevent them from becoming dangerous is key to keeping consumers safe.

Which foods are TCS?

Certain foods are more susceptible to bacterial growth based on their organic makeup. The levels of acidity and moisture as well as the overall composition of a food can determine if it creates an environment that promotes pathogen growth. Some of the most common TCS foods are:

  • Dairy & eggs
  • Meat & fish products
  • High-protein plants (including soybeans, chickpeas, and lentils)
  • Cut fruit & vegetables
  • Cooked rice & beans

These foods (along with others) can spoil very quickly in uncontrolled environments. Think about the difference between storing a steak in a 40° F refrigerator versus in a hot car in the middle of July—which one would you want to eat?

What makes these potentially dangerous?

The danger of TCS foods is introduced when the food passes through what is known as the temperature danger zone. This temperature range is from 40° F to 140° F and is considered the ideal environment for bacterial growth in TCS foods. To put it into perspective, a single bacteria can double every 20 minutes if a food is kept in the danger zone.

To learn more about specific ways food can become unsafe if left at the wrong temperature, click here.

How can these foods be kept safe?

Knowing that bacteria grows the fastest in the danger zone, you can see how vital it is that food be kept out of the danger zone—or, if it must pass through the danger zone, that it do so quickly.

  • Be sure to follow instructions for temperatures and times when cooking food.
  • When serving hot foods, they should be kept at temperatures above 135° F.
  • Food must be cooled quickly; and should go from 135° F to 70° F within the first two hours, and down to 41° F within four hours.
  • Food should be stored at appropriate temperatures. Cold food should be held at 41° F or below, while frozen food should be held at cold enough temperatures to remain frozen.
  • Thaw frozen food in the refrigerator, not sitting out at room temperature.

A vital part of keeping TCS foods safe is ensuring that your refrigerator or refrigerators are maintaining the proper temperature, so that cold and cooling foods are kept out of the danger zone as much as possible.

The most precise and efficient way to monitor the temperature of your refrigerators is a data logger, such as the MadgeTech RFTCTEMP2000A. This compact device fits conveniently inside a refrigerator and delivers superior accuracy in measuring temperatures. In addition to monitoring ambient temperature, the RFTCTemp2000A also accepts an external thermocouple that can be used with a thermal buffer to more accurately mimic the temperatures your foods are experiencing.  Even better, you can set up desired temperature ranges for the logger, and it will e-mail or text you if the temperature leaves the set range. This way, you can monitor your refrigerators without constantly having to open them to check a thermometer.

For more information on how MadgeTech temperature data loggers could help you keep your TCS foods at safe temperatures, please reach out to the MadgeTech sales team.

How Proper Temperature Zones Are Crucial to Keeping Food Safe

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Thanks for the invite Kenny but when it comes to food safety, we’ll have to pass on a trip to the Danger Zone.  

Keeping food at the proper temperature is critical and consumers should do their best to avoid the “Danger Zone.” According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), bacteria in food can multiply rapidly between 40°F and 140°F when left out for more than 2 hours indoors, or 1 hour if outdoor temperatures exceed 90 °F. Although it may appear and smell acceptable, if food is left out for longer, it should be discarded.  

Microorganisms associated with food are commonly known as bacteria, yeasts, and mold. These microorganisms are classified into subgroups depending on behavioral characteristics.  

Beneficial microorganisms are occasionally used in the process of making new foods e.g., yogurt, sauerkraut, and kimchi.  

Spoilage microorganisms are not harmful to humans but are the catalyst for overt signs of a food approaching expiration such as off-putting odors and flavors. Brochothrix thermosphacta is one type of single-cell microorganism responsible for meat and seafood spoilage.  

Pathogenic microorganisms are toxic bacteria that when consumed in higher levels cause diseases – these are the organisms we hope to avoid. Clostridium perfringens, a very common cause of foodborne illness, is naturally occurring at safe levels in raw meat and poultry, the intestines of animals, and the environment. Consumption does not always indicate illness. Through strict adherence to food safety principles, consumers and food processing companies can limit the growth of bacteria.   

As consumers, our expectation when presented with a perishable or ready-to-eat (RTE) good is that those responsible for producing it are following procedures to limit the growth of organisms related to foodborne illnesses. Post-harvest care methods, storage standards, and continuous monitoring during transport are just a few of the many opportunities companies have to implement strategies that will keep their products out of the “Danger Zone.” Food distributors have a lot to lose if their refrigerators or freezers are not maintaining the proper temperature for storing perishable goods. Moisture levels present during cook cycles can promote or inhibit the growth of microorganisms. Monitoring oven humidity is an important variable in keeping food products within healthy environmental conditions. This is where MadgeTech devices can simplify several phases of the food processing operation. In high-temperature applications, ambient and internal product temperatures can be recorded and stored in the HiTemp140 data logger. Data is downloaded upon cycle completion and evaluated by the end user. Real-time refrigeration monitoring is available with the RFRHTemp2000A, which can be customized to send email or SMS alerts to ensure products do not dip below safe temperatures.  

When it comes to something as pervasive as food processing standards, companies rely on the FDA to set science-based food safety principles. Processing engineers seeking solutions to achieve those conditions turn to MadgeTech devices as an integral part of their checks and balances system. For more information on how our devices could help keep your products and consumers safe please reach out to the MadgeTech sales department.   

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