What is the danger zone in food safety?
The danger zone in food safety is the temperature range that pathogens (disease causing micro organisms) grow fastest. The optimum temperature for human pathogens is 37C (our body temperature).
This temperature range is 5C to 63C and below this temperature, most pathogens do not multiply or grow, but remain dormant. Listeria is an exception, and will continue to multiply at less than 5C.
Above 63C most bacteria start to die off, unless they are spore producers, in which case, the vegetative part of the cell dies off and a spore is produced. Spores can also be destroyed at higher temperatures and this is used in the preservation of food in industries such as canning.
Pasteurization is a process that destroys the vegetative cell. This allows food to be kept for longer and be consumed safely. It is used for milk, and fruit juices as well as a host of other food including cooked meats and ready meals.
Guidance in the UK states that you must cool food adequately within 90 minutes. This is to reduce the time that food is in the danger zone.
Getting it wrong can be fatal. There were prosecutions brought against a pub chain and its employees following the death of a customer from food poisoning. Read more here.