Critical Temperatures

The leading cause of food-borne illness is time and temperature abuse. Temperature abuse of food occurs when food is left at temperatures that are above 4°C (40°F) and below 60°C (140°F). This temperature range is commonly called The Danger Zone. Below are the temperatures you should know.

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Image of thermometer, indicating critical food temperatures

Food Temperatures

Food temperatures, and description of what occurs at that temperature
Temperature Description
100°C (212°F) Temperatures destroy bacteria but not all toxins and spores (e.g., Staphylococcus toxin is not destroyed).
60°C (140°F) Most bacteria won’t survive. Minimum hot holding temperature.
49°C (120°F) Rapid growth of bacteria and production of toxins by some bacteria.
37°C (98°F) Optimal bacterial growth.
16°C (60°F) Some growth of food-borne bacteria may occur
4°C (40°F) Slow growth of some bacteria that cause spoilage may occur. Maximum temperature for refrigerated food and cold holding.
-18°C (0°F) Freezer temperatures

Cooling Food

  • Cool food from 60°C (140°F) within 2 hours to 20°C (68°F)
  • 50°C (122°F) to 20°C (68°F) is the worst range for bacteria growth.
  • Cool food from 20°C (68°F) within 4 hours to 4°C (40°F)