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The Temperature Danger Zone

Contributors: Sarah Klemm, RDN, CD, LDN

Published: July 24, 2020

Reviewed: February 28, 2020

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When it comes to food safety, there are a few key factors you have control over in reducing your risk of foodborne illness, also known as food poisoning. One of these factors is temperature control.

Whether you're storing foods for later or serving them immediately, you must keep your foods at a safe temperature and out of the "danger zone."

What is the Danger Zone?

As the name suggests, the danger zone refers to a temperature range at which it is dangerous for foods to be held. That range is between 40°F and 140°F.

Why So Dangerous?

Bacteria grow rapidly between 40°F and 140°F and, under the right circumstances, they can double in amount nearly every 20 minutes. Many foods offer the perfect environment for bacteria to grow.

Who’s at Risk?

Harmful bacteria are one of the main sources of food poisoning in the United States. Many people with a foodborne illness will experience mild symptoms and get better without treatment, but individuals with severe symptoms should seek medical attention.

Anyone can get a foodborne illness but some individuals are at a higher risk — pregnant women, young children, older adults and people with weakened immune systems are at a greater risk for food poisoning even when small amounts of bacteria are present in food.

How to Reduce Your Risk of Food Poisoning

In order to reduce your risk of food poisoning, make sure to keep your foods out of the danger zone. Refrigerate all foods at or below 40°F within two hours of being out, or within one hour if the outdoor temperature is 90°F or warmer.

Before eating leftovers, reheat them to a minimum internal temperature of 165°F.

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