Potentially hazardous foods are foods that must be kept at a particular temperature to minimise the growth of food poisoning bacteria that may be in the food, or to stop the formation of toxins. Examples of potentially hazardous foods include:
- raw and cooked meat, or foods containing meat such as casseroles, stews and curries
- dairy products such as milk, yoghurt and dairy‐based desserts
- seafood (excludes live seafood)
- processed or cut fruits and vegetables (salads)
- cooked pasta and rice
- foods containing egg, beans, nuts or other protein‐rich food such as quiche and soy products
- foods that contain any of the above foods like sandwiches and rolls
You do not have to keep potentially hazardous food at any specified temperature during processing or preparation. However, you must minimise processing or preparation time so that bacteria do not get a chance to multiply to dangerous levels.
If you want to receive, display, transport or store potentially hazardous food at another temperature, you must demonstrate that a safe alternative system is in place to ensure that the food stays safe to eat.
Cooling potentially hazardous food
If you cook potentially hazardous food and cool it for use later, you need to cool the food to 5°C or colder as quickly as possible. There may be food poisoning bacteria in the food even though it has been cooked. Faster cooling times will limit the time that these bacteria are able to grow to dangerous levels.
The Standard requires food to be cooled from 60°C to 21°C in a maximum of two hours and from 21°C to 5°C within a further maximum period of four hours. Alternatively, to cool food over a longer time period you must be able to show that you have a safe alternative system in place.
An efficient way to cool foods quickly is to separate the food into small batches and store in shallow dishes.
Reheating potentially hazardous food
Potentially hazardous food must be reheated rapidly to 60°C or hotter. Ideally, you should aim to reheat food to 60°C within a maximum of 2 hours, to minimise the amount of time that food is at temperatures that promote the growth of bacteria.
It is recommended that previously cooked and cooled potentially hazardous food be heated to a minimum of 70°C for at least 2 minutes. Potentially hazardous food that has already been reheated should not be cooled and reheated a second time.
Food handlers should undertake the nationally recognised unit Follow Workplace Hygiene Procedures to ensure they understand their responsibilities according to the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code Food Safety Standard 3.2.2 ‐ Food Safety Practices and General Requirements.