What’s TCS food?
Time, temperature control for safety foods or TCS foods are any foods that have a specific shelf life and must be kept under refrigeration for safety.
TCS foods that are expired or kept under unacceptable temperatures or past the allotted time must be discarded.
When dealing with TCS foods, food handlers must understand the temperature danger zone. This zone is the range of temperatures that allows bacteria to grow quickly in foods.
Some of these bacteria can cause illness if the product is left in the danger zone or if the food is not properly cooked. The temperature danger zone is 41 degrees Fahrenheit to 135 degrees Fahrenheit.
Also, when food is not cooked to the required temperature, bacteria and food persists, which may cause foodborne illness. Therefore, food handlers must always keep the temperature danger zone in mind when cooking, cooling, thawing or chilling foods.
Common TCS foods include raw animal products such as beef, pork, fish, seafood, and poultry. Dairy products, such as milk, sour cream, ice cream, and some cheeses, eggs, garlic in oil, some cut foods such as melons, tomatoes and leafy greens, and cooked rice, potatoes, beans, vegetables, and grains. Dry foods that can be stored at room temperature are not considered TCS foods.
What’s the difference between TCS and RTE (Ready to eat) food?
We are going to briefly discuss the difference between ready to eat food and TCS food.
A ready to eat food is any food that is edible without further preparation, washing or cooking.
Think about packaged cookies, crackers, canned meats, such as tuna or chicken, or our favorite, Spam, canned soups, canned vegetables, basically anything that is packaged.
Granola bars, peanut butter, jelly, spices, yogurt, potato chips. Some people get confused when it comes to ready to eat food because this category also includes things like baked chicken, fried chicken, cooked hamburger meat, baked potatoes, and coleslaw.
Ready to eat food, again, requires no further preparation, washing or cooking. Think about any food that you can just grab and pop into your mouth.
TCS food, on the other hand is food that contains moisture and protein and has a slightly acidic pH. TCS stands for time-temperature controlled for safety.
A huge, huge tip here is that one of ServSafe’s favorite is sliced cantaloupe. Sliced watermelon is also another TCS food. When you think of TCS foods, think of anything in the dairy section.
Yogurt, milk, cheese, eggs. You also need to include any uncooked poultry or meat.
It also includes cooked rice, beans, vegetables, sliced melons and cut tomatoes. The huge thing to note is that foods can be both ready to eat and TCS foods.
Again, think about your yogurt, deli meats and cheeses. A huge tip is if you have to refrigerate the food, freeze, bake, cook, or fry the food, you can deem it as such.
If the food can stay in your pantry or cupboard, it is a ready to eat food. So when you are in the grocery store, think about all the food that is in the freezer or cold departments.
The foods that are on the shelves are ready to eat foods.