ABSTRACT

Outbreaks from improperly cooled foods continue to occur despite clearly described Food Code cooling guidelines. It is difficult for regulators to enforce these guidelines because they are typically in an establishment for less than the 6 h needed to document proper cooling. Prior research proposed using a novel method to estimate cooling rates based on two time-temperature points, but this method has not yet been validated. Time-temperature profiles of 29 different foods were collected in 25 different restaurants during cooling. Cooling curves were divided into two categories: typical (21 foods) and atypical (eight foods) prior to further analysis. Analysis of the typical cooling curves used simple linear regression to calculate cooling rates. The atypical cooling profiles were studied using Monte Carlo simulations of the cooling rate. Almost all linearized typical cooling curves had high (>0.90) R2 values. Six foods with typical cooling profiles that did not pass Food Code cooling times were correctly identified by the two-point model as having slow cooling rates. Three foods that did not pass Food Code cooling times were identified by the two-point model as having marginal cooling rates. Ten of 12 foods identified by the two-point model as having acceptable cooling rates met Food Code cooling times. Most (six of eight) foods that were considered to have atypical cooling curves failed to meet the Food Code cooling times. The two-point model was also able to determine whether these foods would fail based on Food Code guidelines depending upon the simulation criteria used. Our data show that food depth has a strong influence on cooling rate. Containers with a food depth ≥7.6 cm (3 in.) were more likely to have cooling rates slower than the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Model Food Code cooling rate. This analysis shows that the two-point method can be a useful screening tool to identify potential cooling rate problems during a routine restaurant inspection visit.

HIGHLIGHTS
  • Containers with food depth ≥7.6 cm were likely to have slow cooling rates.

  • Most (21 of 29) foods had linearized cooling rates with high (>0.90) R2 values.

  • Most (15 of 17) slow cooling foods were identified by the two-point method.

  • All (12 of 12) fast cooling foods were identified by the two-point method.

  • The two-point method can be used to identify potential cooling rate problems.

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