Potentially Hazardous Food

Potentially hazardous food is any food or food ingredient, whether natural or synthetic, that is capable of supporting the rapid growth of microorganisms. A food is potentially hazardous if it is:

  • of animal origin, e.g., meat, poultry, milk, fish, shellfish, crabs, and lobster
  • of plant origin and has been heat treated
  • raw seed sprouts.

Often Overlooked Potentially Hazardous Foods:

  • Bacon – if not fully cooked.
  • Mayonnaise or other acidified salad dressings – if pH is above 4.5 and/or combined with other food products.
  • Onions – cooked or reconstituted dehydrated onions.
  • Beans – all types of cooked beans.
  • Eggs – fresh egg shells, fresh eggs with outer shell removed, and hard-boiled egg
  • Whipped butter – whipping introduces bacteria
  • Cheese – soft unripened cheese such as cottage, ricotta, Brie, and cream cheese are more hazardous than hard cheese. All cheeses should be refrigerated.
  • Coffee creaming agents – all non-dairy coffee creaming agents in liquid form, except those approved by food safety authorities (labeled UHT only).
  • Pasta – cooked. Pastries -filled with meat, cheese, and cream filled.
  • Pies – meat, fish, poultry, natural cream, synthetic cream, custard, pumpkin, and pies covered with toppings that support microbial growth.
  • Garlic – garlic in oil products.
  • Potatoes – baked, boiled, or fried.
  • Refried beans – all varieties.
  • Rice – boiled, steamed, fried, Spanish, and cooked rice used in sushi.
  • Sauces – Hollandaise and other sauces that contain potentially hazardous ingredients.
  • Sour cream – if the pH is above 4.6 and/or combined with other food products.
  • Soy protein – tofu and other moist soy protein products.
  • Seed sprouts – all types.


Revised 6/00
University of Rhode Island
Cooperative Extension Food Safety Education