Page 4 - ServSafe Manager Study Guide for the ServSafe

The Purchase, Receipt, and Storage of Food

The flow of food begins with purchasing, then receiving and storing food. Once food becomes unsafe at one of these steps, it cannot be saved, so food must be purchased from reliable sources, received safely, and stored properly.

Food Purchasing

Purchase food from approved and reliable purveyors who’ve been inspected (including growers, shippers, packers, manufacturers, distributors, and markets). Know your purveyor’s safety procedures. Review USDA or FDA inspection reports of the purveyor’s receiving, storage, processing, shipping, cleaning, sanitizing, staff hygiene, training, recall program, and food safety system (HACCP). Deliveries should arrive when staff have enough time to inspect properly. If not, reschedule.

Receiving Food

Train specific staff to receive and inspect properly, using thermometers, scales, and purchase orders, and make sure they’re present when deliveries arrive. Inspections should begin immediately upon delivery. Staff should note signs of contamination and reject any problem packages, accepting only items at their correct temperature. Move cold and frozen items into storage as soon as possible.

Key Drop Deliveries

Deliveries from trusted, approved suppliers may be received after hours. Products should be placed in coolers, freezers, and designated storage areas, but always inspect items the next day for contamination. Also confirm that items were placed in the correct storage location, and that you received what was purchased.

Food Rejection

Some items can be reconditioned for use, such as dirty cans that can be cleaned and sanitized. But if that’s not possible, the item must be rejected. Set it aside and let the supplier know exactly why it’s being rejected. Obtain a signed adjustment or credit document before they go. Log the rejected item on the invoice or receiving slip.

Food Recalls

Contaminated items are recalled by the manufacturer, or by FDA or USDA recall notifications. Identify the recalled item, remove it from inventory, store separately from everything, label it “Do Not Use” and “Do Not Discard”, and inform staff not to move it. Follow recall guidelines from the manufacturer on whether to throw it away or return it.

Temperature Issues

These are temperature guidelines to follow when receiving food:

  • Fresh meat, poultry, fish, and other packaged foods should be checked with a thermometer inserted into their thickest part.
  • Reduced-oxygen packages (ROP) and modified atmosphere packages (MAP), like vacuum-sealed items, should be checked by placing a thermometer probe between two packages. Never puncture them.
  • Cold TCS foods should be 41°F or lower when received.
  • Live and shucked shellfish, and milk should be 45°F or lower, and cooled to 41°F or lower within four hours.
  • Eggs should be 45°F or lower, and hot TCS foods 135°F or higher.
  • Frozen foods should be frozen solid. Reject frozen foods with fluid stains or ice crystals.


Food and non-food item packaging should be original, intact, and clean, protecting the item from contamination. Reject items with tears, punctures, holes, leaks, stains, dampness, or incorrect or missing labels. Reject cans with severe dents in the seam or deep dents in the body, swollen ends, signs of leakage, or rust. Don’t accept anything that seems tampered with or that’s missing a use-by or expiration date. Note sell-by and best-by dates for freshness.


Food should be delivered with the proper documents. Shellfish have shellstock ID tags noting where they were harvested and that the supplier was reliable. Fish to be eaten raw or partially cooked have documents noting they’ve been properly frozen. Farm-raised fish documents note they were raised to FDA standards. Keep documents for 90 days from the sale of the fish.

Quality of Food

Bad quality could indicate time-temperature abuse. Reject foods that are moldy, have the wrong texture, raw proteins that are slimy, sticky, dry, or that smell, or foods that don’t meet your quality standards.

Food Storage

Proper storage safely preserves food quality. Foods must be labeled, dated, stored in a way that prevents cross-contamination, and rotated.

Food Labeling

Labeling food is basic safety. Anything taken from its original container must be labeled with its common name or a clear and accurate identifier, and be easily discernible by sight. Foods labeled for resale must have the common name or clear identifier; the quantity; list of ingredients in order of descending weight; artificial colors or flavors; chemical preservatives; name of manufacturer, packer, or distributor; and any allergen ingredient.

Date Notation

TCS foods held over 24 hours must be labeled indicating when the food must be sold, eaten, or thrown out. RTE TCS foods can only be stored for seven days, beginning the day they’re prepared or opened. Then they must be discarded. Some commercial foods come with expiration dates. Combined foods (using various TCS ingredients) must use the earliest use-by date.

Temperature of Storage

Storage temperatures keep pathogens in check, so store cold TCS foods at an internal temperature of 41°F or lower, and hot TCS foods at 135°F or higher. Store frozen foods frozen. Storage must be well ventilated with open shelving, and accurate to plus/minus 3 degrees Fahrenheit with a visible thermometer. Don’t overcrowd storage areas to allow for free airflow. Don’t open cold storage doors unnecessarily, and monitor temperatures often.

Stock Rotation

The first-in, first-out (FIFO) method is a stock rotation practice that ensures items with the earliest use-by or expiration dates are used before items with later dates. Locate use-by or expiration dates, store items with the earliest dates in front of items with later dates, use front items first, and toss out anything past its use-by or expiration date.

Guarding Against Cross-Contamination

Preventing cross-contamination during the flow of food is just as important as preventing time-temperature abuse.

Supply Storage

Supplies should be stored in designated areas and at least six inches from the floor and wall. Single-use items like cups, gloves, etc. should be stored in original packaging.

Container Use

Foods should be stored in food-safe containers that are durable, leakproof, and can be sealed. Never use food-safe containers to store chemicals, and never use chemical containers to store food.


Storage areas should be clean and dry, including walls, floors, and shelves. Attend to leaks and spills immediately, and clean carts, dollies, and trays. Store foods in cleaned and sanitized containers. Store dirty linens away from food and food prep areas in clean, non-absorbent containers.

Order of Storage

Foods must be stored in ways that avoid cross-contamination and should be wrapped or covered. Cooler storage requires certain items per shelf in a specific top to bottom order:

  • RTE foods
  • Seafood
  • Whole cuts of pork and beef
  • Ground meat and ground fish
  • Ground and whole poultry
Location of Storage

Foods should be stored in cool, dry, and clean locations and never in: locker/dressing rooms, restrooms, trash rooms, mechanical rooms, under stairwells, or under water or sewer lines.

Unsafe Food

Expired, damaged, spoiled, unmarked, or improperly stored foods should be thrown out. If an item must be stored until being returned to the supplier, store it away from other food and equipment, and label it so food handlers won’t use it or move it.

Additional Terms and Concepts to Study:

Receiving Food
Food Storage

Food Preparation

Preparation is the step in the flow of food where time-temperature abuse and cross-contamination can easily affect food safety.

General Preparation Guidelines

During the preparation step, staff must start with cleaned and sanitized equipment, tools, and surfaces to control cross-contamination, and be aware of time-temperature abuse.

Retrieving and Restoring Food

To keep foods out of the TDZ, only take out as much of a food or ingredient as you can prep in a short time. Return cold prepped foods to the cooler as soon as possible or cook prepared foods as soon after prepping as possible.


If using food or color additives, only use approved additives. Never use more than what’s allowed by law, and never use them to modify a food’s appearance. Never sell produce treated with sulfites before receiving, and never add sulfites to produce that will be eaten raw.


Never modify a food’s appearance, mislead, or misinform customers. Appearance, color, and quality should be true, and food additives, color additives, colored wrapping, or lights shouldn’t be used to misrepresent a food. Foods must also be served as described. Never have something like “Baked Cod” on the menu and serve a different fish.

When Food Has Become Unsafe

RTE foods that have become unsafe must be discarded when they have been handled by a sick, restricted, or excluded employee; contaminated by dirty hands or bodily fluids (sneezing); or when time-temperature requirements have been exceeded. Some foods can be reconditioned, like hot foods that can be reheated (if they haven’t been in the TDZ for more than two hours).


Thawing can cause time-temperature abuse. Never thaw at room temperature. Thaw foods:

  • in the cooler
  • under cold (potable) running water at 70°F or lower in a clean prep sink (never letting the food’s temperature rise above 41°F for over four hours)
  • in the microwave if it will be immediately cooked after
  • as part of the food’s cooking

ROP (Reduced-Oxygen Packaged) fish should be frozen until ready to use. Remove fish from packaging before thawing in the cooler, and before or immediately after thawing under cold running water. If packaging your own ROP fish, it must be frozen before, during, and after packaging, and include a label stating it must remain frozen until used.

Preparation of Specific Foods

When handling ice, or preparing produce, eggs, or salads containing TCS food ingredients, food handlers must take extra precaution.


Never prepare produce on or near surfaces used to prepare raw meat, seafood, or poultry. Wash produce in running water slightly warmer than the produce, between leaves and ribs, and wash with ozone if permitted by your local regulatory authority. If soaking, never mix items or batches from different deliveries. Cut/sliced produce must be stored at 41°F. Raw seed sprouts shouldn’t be used if your primary customers are high-risk populations.


Eggs cracked into a large bowl/container (pooled, if your local regulatory authority allows) must be cooked soon after mixing, or stored at 41°F or lower. Clean and sanitize the bowl/container after use for eggs or egg mixtures. Pasteurized eggs should be used in dishes that require little to no cooking, like dressings, sauces, or mousse, and when you primarily serve high-risk populations.

Salads Containing TCS Food

Mixed salads like chicken, tuna, egg, pasta, and potato salads are RTE foods, leaving them vulnerable to pathogens. They are common foodborne illness culprits. Only use leftover TCS ingredients (chicken, pasta, potatoes, etc.) that were cooked, held, cooled, and stored properly. Never use leftover TCS foods that are over 7 days old, and always check the use-by dates of stored TCS foods before using.


Ice can be easily contaminated. Always make ice from safe water. Never use ice that was used to cool food as an ingredient. Always use clean and sanitized scoops, and store them outside the machine in a clean, covered holder with the handle pointing up and out. Never hold or carry ice in a container that’s held raw proteins or chemicals. Never scoop ice with hands or a glass.

Special Preparation Requirements

Some preparations require a variance (document issued by your local regulatory authority once you’ve submitted a thorough HACCP plan). Smoking foods, packaging fresh juice for on-site sale, using additives, curing, custom processing/dressing large game, ROP and MOP foods, sprouting seeds/beans, or having a live shellfish display tank all require a variance.

Cooking Food Safely

Minimum internal cooking temperatures reduce pathogens to safe levels and certain foods require certain temperatures. Cooking reduces pathogens, but not spores or toxins, so proper handling is important in those cases.


Customers should be informed of the danger of lower cooking temperatures, if requested, because minimum internal temperatures exist to reduce specific pathogens. Foods must also be held at certain temperatures to avoid time-temperature abuse. Remember high-risk populations when cooking foods.

How to Measure

To check a food has reached its minimum internal temperature, choose the correct thermometer, insert it properly and into the thickest part of the food, and take readings in at least two spots, noting the temperature is holding for the correct length of time.

Specific Temperature Requirements

These cooking requirements must be adhered to:

  • All poultry, stuffing made with fish, meat, or poultry, stuffed meat, stuffed seafood, stuffed poultry, stuffed pasta, and any dish containing leftover TCS ingredients need to cook to 165°F for <1 second.
  • All ground meats, including game, injected meat, mechanically tenderized meat, ratites (ostrich/emu), ground seafood, and shell eggs being hot held need to cook to 155°F for 17 seconds.
  • Whole seafood, steaks/chops including commercially raised game, and shell eggs that will be immediately served need to cook to 145°F for 15 seconds.
  • Roasts need to cook to 145°F for 4 minutes, or alternative times and temperatures depending on the roast type and oven used.
  • Fruit, vegetables, grains, legumes, and foods made from plants that will be hot held for service (buffet) must cook to 135°F for no minimum time.

TCS Food and Microwave Cooking

Microwave cooked meat, seafood, poultry, and eggs should cook to 165°F, be covered to prevent drying, and rotated and stirred halfway through to promote even cooking. Covered food must stand for at least 2 minutes after to even the temperature, and should be checked in two spots with the proper thermometer.

Partial Cooking

Partially cooking, or parcooking, just before service must be done properly. Never parcook for longer than 60 minutes. Cool immediately after. Freeze or refrigerate after cooling, label it, and hold at 41°F or lower. Reheat the food to its specific minimum internal temperature before serving. Cool again if food isn’t served immediately or being held for service. You must have approved written procedures (per your local regulatory authority) for how parcooked food will be prepped and stored.

Consumer Advisories

Customers may request meat, eggs, or seafood be cooked lower than their minimum internal temperature. If your menu states “to order,” you must provide a footnote stating the risks associated with raw or undercooked ingredients.

Cooling and Reheating Food

The cooling and reheating steps in the flow of food introduce time-temperature issues if not done correctly. There are specific methods to ensure thawing foods move through the TDZ as quickly as possible.

Temperature Requirements

The TDZ encourages pathogen growth, but pathogens grow even faster between 70°F and 125°F. Foods passing through that range must do so quickly.

  • Cooling food should move from 135°F or higher down to 70°F in 2 hours.
  • Then cool from 70°F down to 41°F or lower in an additional 4 hours.
  • If food is not cooled to 70°F in the first 2 hours, it has to be reheated and cooled again.
  • A food’s total cooling time cannot exceed 6 hours.

Cooling Food

Some factors affect how fast foods will cool down.

Important Factors

The thicker the food, the more slowly it will cool. The larger the container of food, the more slowly it will cool. Large containers should be divided into smaller, shallow pans to increase the food’s surface area. Stainless steel containers pull heat away from food faster than plastic.

Cooling Methods

Never cool large containers of hot food in the cooler. Instead, use one of the following safe methods.
* An ice bath: once food is moved into smaller containers, lower them into a prep sink basin or large pot of ice water and stir the food frequently.
* A blast chiller: if you have one, it circulates cold air around large containers of food.
* An ice paddle: is filled with water and frozen so foods can be stirred. This combined with an ice bath is an even faster way to cool.
* Ice or cold water as an ingredient: works if soups or stews are made with less water than called for and the cold water or ice can be added to cool it.

Storage to Cool Further

Foods being cooled should be loosely covered, or left uncovered if there’s no chance contaminants will get into it (by storing it above things like raw meat, seafood, and poultry).

Reheating Food

Foods being served immediately can be reheated to any temperature as long as it was cooked and cooled properly. Foods being reheated for hot holding (buffet) must be heated to an internal temperature of 165°F for 15 seconds within 2 hours of removing from storage. Commercially processed packaged RTE foods (like mozzarella sticks or fried vegetables) should be reheated to at least 135°F.

Additional Terms and Concepts to Study:

Thawing and Preparing Food
Preventing Cross-Contamination
Cooking Food and Beyond

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