Time as a Control

Time as a Control https://wahospitality.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/shutterstock_147039170.jpg

The growth of bacteria in potentially hazardous food is controlled by time and temperature. For example, potentially hazardous food must be kept out of the Danger Zone except during active preparation, cooking or cooling.

The Food Code allows the use of time alone to control the growth of bacteria. This means that potentially hazardous food may be held at room temperature for up to four hours, as long as certain conditions are met. Time as a Control may be used for up to four hours during two low risk situations. These low-risk situations are when the potentially hazardous food is either:

  • A working supply that will be cooked (such as a working supply of pizza ingredients), or
  • Ready-to-eat and held for immediate consumption (such as sandwiches or samples of sliced melons)


If time is used as the public health control, the following criteria must be met:

  1. The food must be at proper temperature before the food is removed from temperature control. Cold foods must be 41°F or colder. Hot foods must be 135°F or hotter.
  2. The food must be marked to indicate the time that is four hours from when the food is removed from temperature control. Food that is unmarked will be discarded. Acceptable marking methods include stickers, tape or paper liners. The key is to make sure that food workers and regulators can easily identify the amount of time that foods have been out of temperature control.
  3. The food must be cooked, served or thrown away within the four hours. Once time is used as the control, the food cannot be placed under temperature control again to be saved and used at a later time.
  4. Written procedures detailing how the above three requirements will be met must be maintained in the food establishment. The procedures must be followed and must be available to the person in charge and regulatory authority.

This provision is intended for food that will be consumed or served quickly. It is important to realize that once food is taken out of temperature control, it must be consumed or cooked within four hours, or it must be discarded. The food may not be cooled, refrigerated, reheated or frozen for use at another time.


This article is an excerpt from the Handbook for Excellent Restaurant Operations (HERO), published by the Washington Hospitality Association.  Want a hard copy of the whole manual?  It’s one of the many benefits of becoming a member!  Find out more about joining the Washington Hospitality Association here.

View the Table of Contents

Rev. 12/4/14


Categories: HERO