Food safety

What is the best way to limit the growth of bacteria in food?

Bacterial contamination causes the majority of foodborne illnesses in the food industry.

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Bacterial contamination causes the majority of foodborne illnesses in the food industry.

  • Bacteria are particularly vulnerable to direct heat during cooking.
  • The heat damages the structure of bacteria, making them unable to reproduce or cause any harm to your customers.
  • Food safety systems help ensure that operations that can limit bacteria in food are properly performed.

Like humans, bacteria need a source of nutrition, and they can use the same food that we consume. In a sense, bacteria and other pathogens are competitors of humans against the same food product. The presence of bacteria in our food is considered a food hazard as it can cause foodborne illness. Food handlers must know the best way to limit the growth of bacteria in food to protect all consumers.

Although beneficial bacteria exist, at least 250 foodborne diseases are traced back to bacterial contamination. Customers, especially those with poor health or immune systems, such as pregnant women and children, are most vulnerable to these diseases. To protect customers from every known foodborne disease caused by bacteria, food handlers must know what affects the growth of bacteria. From this point of view, your team can incorporate operations that will target these factors and make an efficient control system.

Interested to know how to limit the growth of bacteria in food? Read through this article and get the most efficient Food Safety Management System in place. 


bacteria in food


What is the best way to limit the growth of bacteria in food?

The most effective and best way to limit the growth of bacteria in food is to properly cook it to the recommended internal temperature. Contamination of foods prepared in your kitchen can be reduced to safe levels by cooking. While other food handling practices such as proper storage conditions and food hygiene can help prevent contamination, the cooking process will be the last and very important step to limiting bacterial growth.

Applying adequate heat to food kills any present microorganism, such as bacteria in food production. The heat damages the structure of bacteria, making them unable to reproduce or cause any harm to your customers. 

Different types of bacteria may have different requirements of heating levels` for inactivation. Some bacteria are more resistant to heat, whereas others can be killed with minimal heat treatment. This explains the varying recommended cooking temperature for foods. 

To complement this operation, food businesses must always have a comprehensive food safety plan for monitoring cooking temperatures to serve safe food. You can use our digital FSMS solution at FoodDocs to get a smart and efficient monitoring system.


How can food handlers reduce bacteria to safe levels?

Food handlers can effectively reduce bacteria to safe levels by applying proper food handling practices. These operations span from applying thermal processing to properly cleaning your food facility.

There are many ways by which a food handler can accomplish the objective of reducing bacteria to safe levels. Among these operations, the four most effective and essential practices include the following:

  • Cook raw foods to recommended internal temperature. Follow recommended temperature ranges for inactivating harmful bacteria in raw foods and record cooking operations. Use a properly calibrated food thermometer to accurately measure the temperature of cooked foods.
  • Clean food contact surfaces and all utensils. Properly clean and sanitize all areas that may come in contact with food, including the tools and equipment used to prepare your products. Use soapy water or hot water and appropriate sanitizing solutions, such as liquid chlorine bleach solution. This operation also includes proper food hygiene, such as handwashing with warm water and soap.
  • Store raw and ready-to-eat foods at appropriate temperatures. Bacterial pathogen growth can be prevented by keeping cold foods cold and hot foods hot at the correct temperature. When cooking foods in advance, place the ingredients at low temperatures to control the levels of pathogens in the food. The premise of this operation is to prevent perishable food from staying too long in the temperature danger zone, which promotes the growth of dangerous bacteria and creates hazardous food.
  • Prevent cross-contamination. To reduce bacterial levels and prevent their spread, always use separate cooking utensils for raw and ready-to-eat foods to prevent cross-contamination. Use separate cutting boards for preparing fresh produce such as raw meat and ready-to-eat food items and separate cleaning cloths for wiping contact surfaces. Ensure that you always have a clean food contact surface for preparing food for service.

In addition to these basic food safety operations, the following must also be observed:

  • Proper cooling of common foods using the two-stage cool-down step after cooking and additional preparation steps must also be noted. Improper cooling may allow the surviving pathogens to recover.
  • Do not place hot foods inside the refrigerator, which may affect the overall temperature.
  • Always organize refrigerated batches of food according to their required degree of cooking. Cooked or ready-to-eat foods like deli meats must be placed on the top shelf. Raw meats such as different cuts of beef, including raw ground beef and raw shellfish, must be placed on the lower shelves.
  • Food processors and handlers with infection symptoms must not be allowed to work in the kitchen area. People with symptoms of illness must be excluded from service as they may transfer viruses or bacteria to food.
  • Secure a clean source of water. Contaminated water is a common source of bacterial contamination in different types of food.
  • When preparing fresh and firm produce such as vegetables and fruits, you can use a clean produce brush.
  • Always air dry surfaces after sanitizing. Even clean cloths can recontaminate the surfaces.

All the mentioned food handling practices are basic yet effective ways to reduce harmful bacteria and foodborne illness in food production to safe levels. These operations are essential for every food business in creating safe conditions for preparing foods for service.

Proper food handling practices help control and reduce the presence of pathogenic microorganisms that can spoil cooked or ready-to-eat foods and endanger public health. 


cooking is the best way to limit the growth of bacteria in food


At what temperature do most bacteria stop growing?

Bacteria normally stop growing below 40°F (5°C) and above 60°F (140°C) on cooked or ready-to-eat foods. Within the temperature range 40°F to 140°F (5°C to 60°C), or the temperature danger zone, perishable foods are most likely to get spoiled from harmful bacterial growth.

Bacteria can optimally grow within the temperature danger zone and can spoil potentially hazardous foods. To prevent this from happening, foods must be stored in either cold holding or hot holding conditions, depending on the intended use of foods.

To ensure that very minimal to no bacteria will be left alive in fresh foods, cook foods to an internal temperature of 165° F (74° C) unless your local food safety agencies recommend a different internal temperature. Use an accurate food thermometer when monitoring the temperature of foods.

In terms of storage, keep refrigerated foods at 40°F (4°C) and frozen foods at 0°F (-18°C) to control the growth of bacteria in common foods. In addition, a temperature range of 135°F (57°C) and above must be used for hot holding foods.


FoodDocs food safety system-1


Does microwaving food kill bacteria?

When properly done, microwaving food can kill bacteria effectively. When we say properly done, we mean that the food heated in a microwave is evenly exposed to high temperatures.

When microwaving is inadequate or done improperly, the food may remain cold in the center. Surviving disease-causing bacteria in food production may further grow and cause food poisoning in consumers who will eat the product.

To ensure that microwaving kills bacteria, make sure to follow these steps:

  • When possible, spread the food in a thin layer to allow even heating. Large cuts of meat will take more time to reheat. This also applies to other types of food.
  • Place liquid food in a shallow container before heating.
  • Put cooked foods in containers that conduct heat transfer effectively, such as glass or microwave-safe plastics.
  • Do not heat large batches of food inside the microwave. Reheat cooked foods in smaller portions and at intervals.
  • Setting the microwave at the highest temperature and time can dry out the exterior layer of the food while leaving the interior cold.
  • Stir foods occasionally to evenly distribute heat in between reheat steps.
  • Always wipe and sanitize the holding plate in between use for different types of food.
  • Reheat leftover foods to an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C). 


Signs of bacterial contamination

The most evident proof of bacterial contamination is when the food produces off-odor. The problem with bacterial contamination is that sometimes, you cannot identify whether it is present or not until it produces obvious changes. Some types of bacteria do not produce obvious changes in food until they multiply significantly.

Here are a few common signs of bacterial growth or survival of pathogens in fresh food:

  • Formation of sour or off-putting odor.
  • Presence of bubbles or foam on the side of food.
  • Discoloration of food.
  • Presence of a layer of slime on the surface of the food.
  • Presence of bacterial colonies or cottony growth of molds.
  • Unusually significant change in the texture of food.

Contaminated food for service will often taste different, but we do not encourage to use of taste as a determinant of the presence of bacterial contamination. Some bacteria can produce toxins that, even in small amounts, can cause foodborne disease. Contamination can happen to both raw and ready-to-eat foods. Equal care must be practiced in handling any type of food.

Test your employee's aptitude on topics such as food spoilage using our food safety quiz tool. You can also use this free tool to constantly train food handlers as part of their training. 


What should you do if you discover bacterial contamination on food?

If you discover bacterial contamination on food in your establishment, do not use it as an ingredient nor serve it to customers. Bacterial contamination can occur at any point in the food processing chain. If the observed contaminated food is from the delivery of ingredients from a supplier, immediately inform the supplier and take the necessary actions to document the incident.

Contaminated food cannot be used for further processing as it can only endanger your customers. Using regular processing methods such as cooking on heavily contaminated food may not be effective enough to kill all bacteria. 

Inspection of food materials used in your establishment must start from receiving ingredients from suppliers. Food processors and handlers must be trained on how to detect contamination in food supplies that can compromise food safety. Unapproved sources of ingredients may cause contamination of your other products.


reduce bacteria in poultry


How can a food handler reduce bacteria found in poultry?

The most effective way to reduce bacteria in raw poultry is through proper cooking. Poultry meat and poultry products must be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 165°F (74°C) to ensure food safety. Always ensure that you are not using still-frozen poultry meat to ensure even cooking.

A common misconception in preparing raw poultry is that washing the meat reduces bacteria. Washing raw meat will only increase the chances of contaminating other areas and fresh produce in your kitchen.

Raw poultry is widely associated with the bacterium Salmonella sp. and has been linked to various cases of foodborne illness. In addition to an upset stomach, food poisoning from this bacterium can also cause symptoms of illness such as diarrhea, nausea, abdominal cramps, vomiting, and other signs of illness. 


What is the best way to limit the growth of bacteria in your food products?

Bacteria are significant components of the food industry. Your food business' approach to food safety must always consider establishing strict controls against bacterial contamination. Failure to control the growth of bacteria in any type of food in your establishment can lead to potential outbreaks of food poisoning, profit losses, and loss of customer confidence.

Controlling bacterial contamination in fresh food must always be on the priority list of your food business. Also, government food inspectors from different health departments prioritize such areas during a food safety audit.

To efficiently do this, our team at FoodDocs offers a smart, digital solution. With our help, you can ensure that food processors and handlers will never forget how and when to perform operations that help limit the growth of bacteria. 

With our digital solution, you can get the following features and benefits:

  • You can get automatically generated digital monitoring forms. Our monitoring forms, such as Cooking Temperature Log and Fridge Temperature Log, can help you ensure that the growth of bacteria and other pathogens to food is always controlled and limited.

Cooking temperature log FoodDocs

FoodDocs Cooking Temperature Log


  • Our monitoring logs are equipped with detailed instructions to guide food handlers in performing the operation and monitoring them. With this feature, you can ensure that temperature monitoring is always done correctly and efficiently.
  • In addition to detailed instructions, our system can help you improve accuracy in recording data as our monitoring logs are equipped with an auto-fill solution. Logs are prefilled based on previously logged information and would only need verification. This feature can also help you save time.
  • With our smart notification system, food handlers will always remember when to do temperature monitoring checks. Our system will send notifications to food handlers through our mobile app, reminding them of tasks such as temperature monitoring.

With our digital solution, you can easily ensure that bacterial contamination in your food establishment is always kept to a minimum or safe level. All areas that require safe temperature control can be efficiently monitored with our digital Food Safety Management System.

In addition to solutions that help food handlers fulfill food safety tasks, our system can also help managers improve efficiency in overseeing their operations.

  • Setting up our digital Food Safety Management System only takes an average of 15 minutes. The whole process would just require you to answer a few basic questions about your operation, and you can quickly switch to digital monitoring.
  • You can get a real-time dashboard that gives you an overview of your entire operations. This way, you can easily identify areas that need improvement and immediate attention. Save at least 20% more time from supervising your operations.
  • Store, organize, and access all information from the cloud storage that you will get from our user-friendly digital solution.

Bacterial contamination can be quickly addressed and controlled when you have a comprehensive food safety plan. At FoodDocs, you can get that and more. You can ensure that every food safety standard is complied with at all times.

Make sure that every dish you put out for service is safe and free of bacterial contamination. Want to experience switching to a digital platform right now? Great! Use our free 14-day trial to see how our product can help you achieve compliance more efficiently.



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