Temperature logs are one of the most widely used tools by food safety professionals and are typically a fundamental component of a food safety program in the food industry. Having spent countless hours creating vatious food safety logs over the years, I can attest to their both the benefits and challenges they create. When used correctly and consistently they are a great tool to support temperature monitoring requirements identified in the FDA Model Food Code 2-103.11 Duties of the Person in Charge. However, the reality in most food service operations is the continued reliance on paper based food safety logs and this is where food safety professionals often have challenges.
One specific challenge that food safety professionals that work in multi-site food service establishments constantly run into is the falsification of records, or pencil whipping. If you are not familiar; this is when an employee completes a form, record or document without having performed the required work or action. Most food safety professionals look at a large amount of food safety logs over the course of a day, week, month, etc. That provides us an advantage of being able to pick up on various patterns of possible falsified records; for example: the same hand writing for every shift over an entire month, same color pen or pencil (another warning sign), the paper free of creases, wear or stains. The reasons for this are endless but the most frequent I have heard are:
- “No one looks at these logs anyway, so what’s the point?.”
- “I like to just write down all the temperatures that I took all day at one time.”
- “It takes too long to do during peak service periods.”
Why is this a problem? For starters, It brings the locations entire food safety program into question which can place consumer safety and brand reputation at risk. Another major reason, your companies food safety logs can become discoverable records (like your company email) during a legal preceding and the company’s level of liability.