What are potentially hazardous foods?

What foods do we need to be especially concerned with when keeping food safe?

You may have heard the term, potentially hazardous foods mentioned when discussing food or food safety.  What is a potentially hazardous food and what does that mean in your home kitchens? The Michigan Food Code defines ‘potentially hazardous’ food as a natural or synthetic food that requires temperature control because it is capable of supporting the rapid and progressive growth of bacteria. Bacteria growth in food can lead to foodborne illness.

The foods we are most concerned with include:

  • Milk and milk products
  • Meat: beef, pork, lamb and poultry
  • Fish, shellfish
  • Shell eggs
  • Cut melons, cut tomatoes and cut leafy greens
  • Baked potatoes
  • Cooked rice, beans and vegetables
  • Tofu or other soy proteins
  • Sprouts and sprout seeds

Michigan State University Extension recommends that you handle potentially hazardous foods safely in your home kitchen. Follow these tips:

  • Keep hot food hot, by holding foods above the temperature of 140 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Keep cold food cold by storing and holding foods below 40 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Have a food thermometer to check the temperatures of your food when cooking food or holding food
  • Place a refrigerator thermometer in your refrigerator to ensure the temperature is below 40 degrees Fahrenheit
  • When prepping food, don’t leave food out of the refrigerator any longer than necessary
  • Cook to proper internal temperatures
  • After grocery shopping, head straight home to the refrigerator and put foods away quickly

Keep foods out of the Temperature Danger Zone as much as possible to cut down on the potential for bacteria to grow in your food and lead to a foodborne illness.

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