Temperature monitoring kit to avoid errors and stick to a food safety plan

29 November 2023 by

Being safe with food no longer means a sacrifice in timing as the latest tech will help you stay on track

"Food safety should be at the heart of any catering operation and embedded within its DNA," declares Jason Webb, managing director at Electronic Temperature Instruments. "Getting it wrong can result in serious financial, reputational or legal ramifications."

This is because caterers account for a majority of the estimated 2.4 million cases of foodborne illnesses in the UK each year, according to the government's 2021 food security report. Restaurants, cafés, pubs, bars, hotels and catering services account for 54% of illnesses, while takeaways and fast-food outlets account for 3%. It's why they need to pass regular food safety checks by environmental health officers (EHOs) to score the food hygiene ratings that are now key factors in diners' choice of venue.

Legislation such as the Food Safety Act 1990 and Food Hygiene Regulations 2013 compels caterers to create a food safety management plan based on HACCP (hazard analysis, critical control points) and a key component is testing and recording that food temperatures at all stages – from delivery to dinner plate – fall within proscribed parameters to curb microbial growth. While the regulations provide "accessible blueprints on the correct steps to take" says Webb, compliance has traditionally proved error-prone and burdensome.

"In the foodservice industry, there's a keen emphasis on speed. In such a busy environment, it can be difficult to stay on top of hygiene checks and who has done what," says Rag Hulait, director of sales at Monika UK.

"Paper-based records are cumbersome and time-consuming at best, and at worst, risk non-compliance with legislation. It also carries the risk of tasks being duplicated, thus wasting staff time, or being missed completely."

Modern connected technologies can take much of the pressure off kitchen teams while providing faster, more accurate results, as Webb points out: "The use of data loggers, temperature probes and routine ambient temperature monitors allow for a streamlined process from the intake of the produce into its storage and during its lifecycle."

Cloud-based data management systems give operators round-the-clock, real-time visibility of compliance, performance and problems that can be accessed remotely by offsite and multiple-site managers.

Man with a plan

The first hurdle is drawing up a food safety management plan. FoodDocs' smart software can create a HACCP plan in less than one hour and a food safety monitoring system in just 15 minutes, saving some 120 hours on getting compliant and at least 20% of the time spent on daily food safety activities. The overview dashboard linked to the downloadable mobile app cuts supervision time by 20%.

The Food Standards Agency's (FSA) paper-based Safer Food, Better Business (SFBB) pack offers a simple route to compliance but problems keeping the bulky paperwork on hand, up-to-date and in tolerable condition are common reasons for failing inspections, explains practising EHO Colin Alborough. His solution, the SFBB+ App, is a digital alternative with ‘Primary Authority' status that is recognised by inspectors and, unlike the paper pack, allows operators to keep records of critical temperatures via phone-generated photos.

Workforce management apps such as Access Hospitality's Trail App (which also has Primary Authority status and includes EHO-approved templates) offer an easy entry point for hassle-free HACCP compliance.

"Digital checklists such as Trail App work on any device and prompts the right person to do the right task at the right time," says Trail App head Amy Dignon. "Our HACCP software monitors processes to avoid any potential irregularities in relation to food storage, handling, production and preparation." The app stores records of all time- and date-stamped activities and attached photos and reported issues in the cloud and prompts staff if fridge and food temperatures stray outside normal ranges.

Non-stop sanitation

Even the best-trained crew can waver in their food hygiene duties during hectic service periods, points out Nick Falco, product and technical director at Mechline Developments. Mechline's HyGenikx air and surface sterilisation units, which produce superoxide ions and plasma quarto 24/7 to zap hazards such as salmonella, Escherichia coli, norovirus and listeria. This non-stop sanitation reduces spoilage by extending the shelf life of perishable foods by an average 58% (and up to 150% for certain foods).

The compact wall-mounted units, which plug into a standard socket, cover every application from food prep to washrooms and come with window stickers to alert diners to their protective presence.

Temperature probes are one the safest methods to ensure food remains at the correct temperatures at all stages, says Webb. ETI's fifth and newest penknife-inspired digital food thermometer, Thermapen One, is its fastest and most accurate to date, reading temperatures in less than one second to an improved accuracy of ± 0.3°C. The waterproof unit with a Biomaster antimicrobial casing comes in 10 colours which could be used strategically to prevent cross-contamination of different foods such as raw, ready-to-eat, and gluten-free.

Sense check

Research by Navitas Group found that kitchen staff can spend around two hours a day taking and recording appliance temperatures manually, highlighting the value of round-the-clock monitoring systems such as the MonikaPrime Cloud-based safety, hygiene and compliance management technology. Its smart temperature sensors for fridges, freezers, and cold rooms (there are others for door openings or compressor performance) swiftly alert staff to temperature deviations, overnight power outages or failing equipment.

Fridge and freezer sensors can be set with flexible critical temperature limits for lower- and higher-risk items, says Hulait, adding: "The discreet sensor cleverly simulates the temperature of perishable goods, rather than simply recording the air inside the unit. This gives greater accuracy by accounting for fluctuations such as doors opening and closing."

The system includes Bluetooth-equipped food probes that transmit fully-traceable records of temperatures, time and user against specific products to hand-held Android devices that can also prompt other food safety or hygiene tasks.

Many ovens and fridges come ready-equipped with HACCP-compliant systems that monitor and record their operating processes and more and more now incorporate wireless connectivity. "Connected cooking systems can help ensure that the ‘time-temperature' principle of HACCP is consistently met. This principle requires that food be cooked for a specific duration at a minimum temperature to ensure the elimination of pathogens," says Rational technical sales director Graham Kille.

Rational's ConnectedCooking network management system offers real-time monitoring and alerts, data tracking, automated documentation, and remote management. It records and stores cooking process data such as temperature profiles and cooking times, start times, door openings, target temperatures and actual core temperatures – fully-traceable to individual batches – along with other HACCP-related information such as cleaning records. Data is stored on the cooker for 10 days and remotely for six months.

In addition to cold temperature monitoring, Checkit's suite of connected, automated sensors, workflow management software and operational insights dashboards now includes an innovative option for monitoring hot-hold food using self-contained, sealed wireless sensors that operate up to 100ºC.

A 50% slump in the number of food standards professionals working in local authorities over the past decade or so has spurred the FSA to update its code of practice for England and Northern Ireland (with pilots ongoing in Wales). This means a more risk-based and intelligence-driven approach to food safety checks and greater use of the remote and desktop-based inspections we saw during lockdown.

This is good news for responsible businesses, according to Katie Pettifer, FSA director of strategy and regulatory compliance: "Many businesses with a good track record of compliance will face less frequent inspections, while those with a poor track record will face greater scrutiny."

Trusty trio

Richard Brooks, project and sales manager at catering equipment supplier and installer Aspen Services, uses Mechline's HyGenikx air and surface sanitisers.

"We always try to get HyGenikx units included within a design as not only does it promote good hygiene, but its ability to remove odours and prolong the lifetime of fruit and vegetables means it pays for itself over and over again," he explains. He specified a trio of the discreet, wall-mounted units to tackle different issues at the Clays Indian restaurant in Reading. One supports the cleaning regime and clean air movement in the front of house kitchen – a location that puts it at immediate high risk, says Brooks. A second unit keeps the beer cellar and storeroom fresh and free from mould, while the third tackles the limited air movement in a new prep room.

Clays owner and executive chef Nandana Syamala wanted the HyGenikx systems to support the restaurant's five-star food hygiene rating but noticed added benefits: "Our cellar had suffered from a stale beer smell but that is a thing of the past. Likewise, by having one in the prep area, we have already noticed how our produce remains at peak freshness far longer."

Safety net

End-to-end food safety from delivery and storage to prep and serving is high on the agenda for head chef Mattie Crooks, who oversees 14 catering facilities and four on-site kitchens serving breakfast, dinner and lunch to the 18,000 students at the University of East Anglia.

Switching from handheld probes and manual paperwork to more than 40 in-fridge Monika sensors and five handheld digital probes has removed much of the time-consuming hassle and inaccuracies of yore for his 30 or so back-of-house staff.

Before, an erroneous record meant digging out backlogs of data for EHOs seeking signs of other mistakes – detailed reports the Monika system can provide within minutes. "It's like having a teammate with you at all times, and you can rely on it to get things correct for you," enthuses Crooks. "The Monika system provides a safety net, it looks after everything you might miss."

The alert system has saved the contents of a fridge accidentally switched off during cleaning. "Previously we would've been unaware and had to throw away that food," says Crooks, while the full team, from head chef to kitchen porter, is comfortable with the easy-to-use dashboard.


Aspen Services aspenservice.co.uk

Checkit www.checkit.net

Electronic Temperature Instruments thermometer.co.uk

FoodDocs www.fooddocs.com

Mechline Developments www.mechline.com

Monika UK www.monika.com

Navitas Group www.navitas.eu.com

Rational www.rational-online.com


SFBB+ www.sfbbplus.co.uk

Trail App (Access Hospitality) trailapp.com/lp/haccp-app

The Caterer Breakfast Briefing Email

Start the working day with The Caterer’s free breakfast briefing email

Sign Up and manage your preferences below

Check mark icon
Thank you

You have successfully signed up for the Caterer Breakfast Briefing Email and will hear from us soon!

Jacobs Media is honoured to be the recipient of the 2020 Queen's Award for Enterprise.

The highest official awards for UK businesses since being established by royal warrant in 1965. Read more.


Ad Blocker detected

We have noticed you are using an adblocker and – although we support freedom of choice – we would like to ask you to enable ads on our site. They are an important revenue source which supports free access of our website's content, especially during the COVID-19 crisis.

trade tracker pixel tracking