Restaurant Problems: Time Temperate Abuse

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frozen foodIn the past two weeks of operation at my new restaurant, I have had to throw out 10 pounds of pulled duck, 30 pounds of chicken breasts and 8 pounds of chicken livers. Why? Not because my freezer or cooler are functioning improperly. They are at 0 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit as they should be. No, not through any fault of mine or my employees, but as the result of improper handling on behalf of my suppliers, all who are nationally known broadliners. In addition, I have tossed out 1 pound of Thai basil (left at the door by an impatient sales representative) and cooked 10 pounds of frozen chicken thighs before they reached the end of their premature, shortened shelf life. Why? All because of inadequate storage techniques resulting in what is referred to as time temperature abuse.

Time temperature abuse is a food safety phrase that describes exposure of foods to unsafe temperatures for periods of time. It is most apparent in frozen foods that partially thaw and refreeze when moved from truck to warehouse to truck to customer. At each transfer, unless properly handled, even the slightest thawing, one not visible to the eye, can shorten the shelf life of the product. Without having to go into the science of food safety, let’s just say that if frozen food thaws and refreezes, it has obviously been exposed to unsafe temperatures, and who knows for how long?

What should you look for? Refuse any frozen product that shows evidence of thawing in the form of ice crystals outside or inside the package. Expect your suppliers to deliver frozen food in a refrigerated truck and refuse any product that is not delivered to you at 0 degrees Fahrenheit. Even a few degrees higher can make a difference.

When you thaw food that has been previously thawed (even partially) and refrozen, it results in a shorter shelf life. A shorter shelf life means when you place the food in the cooler to thaw, by the time it thaws, it may have already reached the end—phewww! If that happens in spite of all of your precautions, don’t hesitate to place the burden of proof with the supplier. If you are valued as a customer, they should bear the cost, not you.

Buon Appetito e Buona Salute, Chef Angela Bell
Beyond the Bull (an “eat smart” kitchen)
233 W. Main St., Central, SC 29630

Last modified: May 15, 2013
Angela Bell

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