Sous Vide Food Safety Guidance

Base Guidance to Sous Vide Cooking:
Despite what advice or guidance has been given by Chef’s, Tutors, Mates down at the pub,Suppliers . Most Sous vide Temperatures have no scientific reason of being safe unless Treatment of the food has been achieved  (Curing,Searing). below is a 4 step guide on how to best approach sous vide cooking:

1. Supply & Preparation: 
Only use Fresh ingredients (Where fish is concerned, only use specialist suppliers that can obtain fish suitable for Raw consumption). Using Older stock will result in greater risk of food poisoning regardless of whether all necessary steps have been taken.

When preparing foods for sous vide, ensure thorough and effective treatment is given to minimise risk. This includes:-cutting or tenderising meat or steaks. -Removing all traces of soil & dirt from vegetables.- Avoid cross contamination NB: Wear Gloves & Hairnets if possible to reduce chances of Staphylococcus (And its toxins which can survive up to 60’C for up to 16 hours)

2. Vacuum Packing & Storage
Vacuum packing foods must be treated in the same respect as chopping boards ensuring separate machines for raw and cooked. After use of any Vacuum Pack machine a thorough clean and disinfection is vital. use products that comply with either BS EN 1276 OR BS EN 13697 for the disinfection stage.

Storage is a key factor in preventing food poisoning in Sous Vide. Bacteria such as Clostridium botulinum is an Anaerobe (Grows without Oxygen), and also multiplies at temperatures as low as 3’C . Focus on C.Botulinum is of the biggest importance as its illness can lead to Paralysis & Death.

The FSA currently gives guidance on Vacuum packed foods and allows up to 10 days shelf life when no other controls have taken place. I will advise against keeping food this long and would prefer a shorter shelf life to reduce the risk.

3. Cooking & Re-heating
As of 2020. I will no longer be supporting waterbathed temperatures below what is stated here unless microbiological testing has been done or completely effective CCP’s /CL’s have taken place in the production of the product:
as long as all stages of the preparation & storage stages of production has been done effectively, i can support the following Cooking & Re-heating temperatures of food in a waterbath: 
60’C for 45 minutes
65’C for 10 minutes
70’C for 2 minutes
75’C for 30 seconds
80’C for 6 seconds

NB: Sous Vide burgers must be cooked at a minimum of 63’C for 93 minutes. this is due to the serious outbreaks of E. Coli O157 (H7 PT8). Once a burger has been cooked safety, the re-heat process can be done as normal.

When setting waterbaths up for cooking & Re-heating, its always best to add 1-2’C to the targeted temperature as the food itself will lower the temperature of the water.

4.Documentation & Recording

Always the boring part of a chefs life, but in your defence, the most important.
(Examples will be in brackets)
When creating or adding to a HACCP you need to remember and implement the 7 principles of HACCP:

1. Hazard Analysis (what are the hazards = Clostridium Botulinum – Extended shelf life kept over 10 days)
2. Determine the Critical Control Points (C.Botulinum grows fastest between 3’C-50’C so we shall target to keep food below 2’C and above 63’C when cooking)
3. Establish Critical Limits ( food will not be stored above 8’C or fall below 61’C when Sous Vide cooking takes place)
4. How will we monitor (Temperature probes, Fridge digital dials)
5. Define Corrective Actions based on the Critical Control Points (If food temperature falls below 63’C when cooking, we will raise the waterbath temperature to 65’C and continue cooking for 10 additional minutes)
6. Establish Verification (How do we know everything is working, have we received any complaints?)
7. Create and record documentation based on our process (Fridge Temperatures, Food Temperatures, Cleaning Schedule/Log)

Final Notes:
As explained at the top this is guidance and will not be accepted as a replacement in your HACCP system. You must cover every dish that is Sous Vide Cooked individually for it to be sufficient and effective. Over the coming months I will be creating a full length Food hygiene course on ‘Sous Vide Cooking Safety’ which will be targeted for those who currently hold a level 3 food Safety and want to progress to a level 4:Managing food Safety.

Course overview: Sous Vide Food Safety
1. Introduction & Legal Requirements
2. Equipment & Prerequisites 
3.1 Microbiology
3.2 Clostridium Botulinum  & Risks Involved
3.3 Escherichia (E.Coli O157) – & Risks Involved
4. Suppliers & Safe Food Sourcing
5. Storage & Structure 
6. Personal Hygiene
7. Preparation & Vacuum Packing
8. Sous Vide – Cooking
9. Sous Vide – Cooling & 2nd Storage
10. Sous Vide – Reheating 
11. Cleaning & Disinfection
12. Sous Vide & HACCP implications.
13. Monitoring Sous Vide Safety as a supervisor

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