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Paper Logs For Temperature Monitoring: The Same Old Mistake

Jun 17, 2013

There are a number of ways to ensure proper storage temperatures in restaurants and food service establishments. With that said, one particular method is becoming obsolete altogether. In the past, paper logs were the primary method of temperature logging. Employees would check temperatures twice daily (generally), and could produce weekly collections of logs from food storage areas. But how efficient is this method, and how is it becoming obsolete? Check out this 4-point list of problems that can surface with manual paper logging, and consider upgrading to an automated system for consistency and compliance.

1. Time: Even if temperature readings are recorded by a busboy or intern, keep in mind that the constant recording (particularly with many spots to log) can take significant time away from the employee's primary duties. 

2. Massaged Data: This is a larger "trust" issue if data has been altered or misused, but overall, the possibility of altered data exists with a paper log. Employees can (knowingly or by mistake) record false temperature readings that may indicate a failure or possible temperature excursion. There is no excuse for an employee that fails to indicate potential changes. 

3. Lost reports: If the health department requires you to produce temperature readings that span back a few months (or to a randomized date), paper logs create a variety of issues if organization is poor. Daily logs (365 in a year) can be easily lost amidst a mountain of paperwork and pinpointing exact dates can be extremely cumbersome. Owners may have to comb through a mountain of disorganized data, and the realization that the data may be "missing" can have serious consequences when the health department arrives.

4. Inadequate reporting: Especially with the example of twice-daily checks, temperatures may fluctuate significantly in the 12 hours between temperature recordings. Food safety dictates that if certain foods are left exposed to low/high temperatures for 2 hours or longer, disposal may be the only option. Temperature readings may seem normal during the first check, but a temporary failure (that lasts 2-3 hours) cannot be accounted for when the second recordings are taken. This "dead zone" of lost readings can hold important clues for possible variations or issues, whether they're specific to the HVAC system or the actual refrigeration/freezer unit.

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