The 2-Hour/4-Hour Rule And Transporting Hazardous Food: What You Need To Know

Posted on: 1 February 2016

According to Australian food standards, businesses must observe strict rules when it comes to handling, storing or transporting potentially hazardous foods. Businesses must keep hazardous foods under strict temperature controls, but it's not always easy to understand how this applies at different stages during the food preparation process. Learn more about the 2-hour/4-hour rule, and find out how this method applies when you transport potentially hazardous food. 

 About potentially hazardous foods

Potentially hazardous foods meet two criteria. These criteria are:

  • The product may allow food-poisoning bacteria to multiply.
  • The product may contain food-poisoning bacteria that may multiply.

Examples of potentially hazardous foods include raw and cooked meat, dairy products and processed fruit. Dried or canned foods are not such a problem, but they may become potentially hazardous if you prepare or mix them in other ways. As such, strict vigilance is necessary at all times when you prepare, store or transport food.

The challenge businesses face

Many businesses need to prepare foods in one place and transport them to other venues to sell or for onward consumption. As soon as a food product becomes potentially hazardous, food hygiene regulations apply. Specifically, you must make sure potentially hazardous foods stay at or below 5 degrees or at or above 60 degrees. Between these temperatures, hazardous bacteria can start to multiply.

As you move food around, it's sometimes difficult to strictly maintain these temperatures. In these situations, the 2-hour/4-hour rule can help.

How the 2-hour/4-hour rule works

The 2-hour/4-hour rule acknowledges that you may need to move potentially hazardous food products in and out of 'safe' temperatures. This rule helps you understand what you can do with food products, according to how long they stay out of the 'safe' zone. The rule looks at the total time the food stays between 5 and 60 degrees.

  • For a period under 2 hours, you can refrigerate or use the food. Harmful bacteria won't have enough time to multiply.
  • For a period between 2 and 4 hours, you can use the food, but you can't refrigerate it anymore.
  • For a period over 4 hours, you must dispose of the food.

Provided you stay within these guidelines, you will not breach food standards. So how could this apply to a 'real' business?

An example to consider

If you own a sandwich shop, you may need to prepare, pack and then transport sandwiches. At various times, you may need to take potentially hazardous products (like meat, cheese or fish) out of the safe temperature zone.

A few key points to consider:

  • You would have to make sure that you prepare each batch of sandwiches within two hours if you work at room temperature and you then want to refrigerate them for sale elsewhere.
  • If you don't have refrigerated transportation, you would need to prepare AND ship your sandwiches to their next destination within a 2-hour period, unless you plan to sell them for consumption within a further 2-hour period.
  • If your products are EVER out of chill for more than 4 hours, you cannot sell them. For example, if your refrigerated transport is not working, you would have to carefully consider how far away you need to move the sandwiches, accounting for the preparation time taken and the time the products will stay on sale at the other end.

Effective temperature control can help mitigate these and other risks.

The 2-hour/4-hour rule is a useful way to consider how you handle potentially hazardous foods. Nonetheless, effective refrigeration from production to delivery can further mitigate the risks. Contact local carrier refrigeration repair professionals for additional assistance.


Transportation Tips for Divers and Underwater Explorers

Hi, my name is Nancy, and I have been diving since I was kid. I even moved to Thailand for a while to work in the diving tourism industry. Over the years, I have learned how challenging it can be to travel with diving equipment. I have learned how to pack it efficiently, how to get it through customs, how to service it and how to arrange independent transportation for diving gear so you do not have to carry it on your own. If you have questions about transporting diving gear or anything else related to diving and transportation, I invite you to explore my blog. Thanks for stopping by, Nancy.

Latest Posts