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Preventive control recommendations for cooling heat processed meat products

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The purpose of this document is to provide information on measures for controlling the risk of pathogen growth during the cooling of cooked meat products after a heat treatment.

Control Measures

After a heat treatment, products need to be cooled rapidly to prevent the outgrowth of heat-shocked pathogen spores including Clostridium species (i.e., no more than a 1-log colony forming units per gram (CFU/g) increase of C. perfringens and no growth of C. Botulinum) and other pathogens of concern such as Staphylococcus aureus.

To control the cooling phase and make sure it is fast enough, operators develop a valid cooling schedule for every type of heat processed product, and monitor the chilling process to ensure that each lot met the cooling schedule.

The following cooling schedules are known to minimize growth of pathogenic bacteria in/on the products.

Slow cooling


These parameters for slow cooling are applicable for a meat product that is formulated with:

The following US Food Safety Inspection Service cooling parameters (as per compliance guidelines in Appendix B, 1999) may also be used for the slow cooling of ready-to-eat meat and poultry products cured with a minimum of 100 ppm of ingoing sodium nitrite under certain conditions.


Products are cooled so that the maximum internal temperature is reduced from 130°F (54.4°C) to 80°F (26.6°C) in 5 hours and from 80°F (26.6°C) to 45°F (7.2°C) in 10 hours (15 hours total cooling time).

Conditions for the use of these parameters are as follows:


  1. These conditions were established based on the following publication: Redondo-Solano M. et al. Effect of meat ingredients (sodium nitrite and erythorbate) and processing (vacuum storage and packaging atmosphere) on germination and outgrowth of Clostridium perfringens spores in ham during abusive cooling. Food Microbiology 35: 108-115 (2013).
  2. This option applies only to cooked products

Rapid cooling

During cooling, the product's maximum internal temperature must not remain between 54°C and 27°C for more than two (2) hours nor from 54°C to 4°C for more than 7 hours.

Alternatively, products consisting of a piece of intact (excluding tenderized) muscle such as roast beef, moist cooked beef, turkey breast or pork loin, may be cooled to 4°C within 7.5 hours from the initiation of the cooling process while taking no more than two hours for the 50°C to 20°C temperature zone.

The following US Food Safety Inspection Service cooling parameters (as per compliance guidelines in Appendix B, 1999) may also be used for the rapid cooling of ready-to-eat meat and poultry products provided that:

For both options, the cooling between 120°F (48.8°C) and 80°F (26.6°C) does not take more than 1 hour, and chilling must continue between 55°F (12.7°C) and 40°F (4.4°C).

Interrupted cooling

Cooling may be interrupted for up to 4 hours for cooked products that are cooled from 54°C to 18°C within 2 hours, if the products are:

Deviation from the cooling process

When the operator is conducting a risk assessment on a product because they intend to distribute a product that was subject to a cooling deviation, the following should be considered.

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