The Complete Guide to Food Safety and Food Service Temperatures for the South African Food Industry

Understanding and maintaining the right food storage temperatures is crucial for those in the catering and restaurant industry. In this guide, we will delve into the legal and suggested temperatures for food safety in South Africa. We’ll cover which temperatures you should monitor and provide advice on the best thermometers to use for each.


Danger zone: 8 to 63 °C
Refrigerated food deliveries: 8 °C
Frozen food deliveries: -18 °C
Fridge temperature: 5 °C
Freezer temperature: -18 °C
Cooked food: 70 °C*
Cooled food: 8 °C within 90 minutes
Reheated food: 70 °C
Hot holding: 63 °C

*Note: The temperature for hot food can vary based on the dish. Refer to our Cooking Temperature Chart for specific recommendations for meats, confectionery, and baked goods.

It’s standard to ensure food reaches 70 °C and remains at this temperature for 2 minutes.

Other valid time and temperature combinations include:

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

Cooking food to the correct temperature for the specified duration guarantees the eradication of harmful bacteria. It’s recommended to use a food probe thermometer to verify the core temperature of hot dishes.

Danger Zone
The Danger Zone is the temperature range where harmful bacteria can flourish in food, which is between 8 and 63 °C. To minimise the risk of foodborne illnesses, most hot dishes should be cooked to above 63 °C, though certain items like rare beef are exceptions. Cold items should be stored at or below 8 °C.

The duration of food stays in the Danger Zone matters. The longer food remains between 8 and 63 °C, the higher the risk of bacterial growth. Hence, when cooking, cooling, and reheating food, it’s essential to transition through the Danger Zone swiftly.

Chilled & Frozen Food Delivery Temperatures
For food deliveries, checking the temperature between products with a between-pack probe can be beneficial. Safe temperatures are 8 °C or below for chilled food and -18 °C or colder for frozen items.

Refrigerated and Frozen Food Storage Temperatures
Cold items must be stored at 8 °C or lower. In South Africa, it’s advisable to maintain fridge temperatures at about 5 °C. Regularly monitor this with a fridge thermometer. For other cold storage, use a food probe thermometer to measure the food’s internal temperature.

Ensure frozen items are stored at -18 °C or colder, checking freezers daily with fridge/freezer thermometers. Taking between-pack temperatures is also advisable for an accurate reading of frozen goods.

Cooling Food Temperature
When cooling hot food for refrigeration, ensure it’s below 8 °C promptly to prevent harmful bacterial growth. However, don’t place hot items directly into fridges or freezers as this can increase the appliance’s temperature, jeopardising other stored items. Ideally, reduce the temperature of hot food to under 8 °C within 90 minutes.

Hot Holding Temperature
Hot holding pertains to maintaining hot food above 63 °C before serving to prevent bacterial growth. Check the core temperature with a food probe thermometer before serving.

Such food should be utilised within two hours. If it remains unused post two hours, reheat it to 70 °C (maintaining this for two minutes), and then return to hot holding. If it has been reheated previously, cool it quickly to 8 °C or below. Food left out for over two hours must be discarded.

Temperature for Reheated Food
Reheated items must be evenly cooked. The standard reheating temperature in South Africa is 70 °C for two minutes or its equivalent. Use a food thermometer probe to ensure a consistent safe temperature throughout the dish.