When working to prevent foodborne illness, it’s important to recognize that some food items are more likely than others to become unsafe. Those items are known as TCS food. TCS food is food that requires time-temperature control to prevent the growth of microorganisms and the production of toxins. This food contains moisture and protein and has a neutral or slightly acidic pH.
Most bacteria need nutrients such as carbohydrates or proteins to survive. Also, bacteria grow best in food that contains little or no acid. pH is the measure of acidity. The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14.0. A value of 0 is highly acidic, while a value of 14.0 is highly alkaline. A value of 7.0 is neutral. TCS food items generally have a pH of 7.5 to 4.6.
Bacteria need time to grow and grow rapidly when being held in the temperature danger zone (between 41˚F and 135˚F (5˚C and 57˚C). The more time bacteria spend in this temperature zone, the more opportunity they have to grow to unsafe levels. Be sure to keep an eye on your time and temperature control when preparing these food items.
For more information on TCS food, check out our ServSafe Food Safety Program