Food handlers must ensure that Potentially Hazardous Food (PHF) is displayed and stored in a manner that minimises the growth of pathogenic bacteria, and any other bacteria, that can form toxins in food. Temperature control is the simplest and most effective way of controlling the growth of bacteria.
The Australian requirements for the storage and display of potentially hazardous foods are:
• PHF must be stored and displayed below 5°C or above 60°C
• PHF must be thrown out if stored or displayed at temperatures between 5° and 60°C
more than four hours
• PHF must be used immediately if stored or displayed between 5° and 60°C for
between two and four hours
• PHF may be either refrigerated or used immediately if stored or displayed at between 5° and 60°C for less than two hours
Food businesses can change these requirements if they demonstrate that some other practice will minimise the growth of pathogenic bacteria and the toxin production by bacteria. Scientific expertise and laboratory testing is required to demonstrate that any other practice is effective.
Some meal ingredients, meal replacements and snacks, often manufactured foods, are not potentially hazardous. However, meals whether served at home or in a food service setting should be assumed to be potentially hazardous. Even a single PHF on a plate will ensure that the entire meal is potentially hazardous, but often every component will be a PHF.
Food Standard 3.2.2 defines potentially hazardous food as “food that has to be kept at certain temperatures to minimise the growth of any pathogenic microorganism that might be present in the food or to prevent the formation of toxins in the food”. Clause 8 of that Standard requires that food handlers, when displaying potentially hazardous food, display it under temperature control.