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Food Safety for Industry

Potentially Hazardous Food — Definition

Potentially Hazardous Food is a natural or a synthetic food that is in a form capable of supporting:

  • The rapid and progressive growth of infectious or toxigenic microorganisms. OR
  • The growth and production of a poisonous substance (toxin) called Clostridium botulinum. Clostridium botulinum is a germ (type of bacteria) that causes botulism, a muscle-paralyzing disease. Foodborne botulism occurs when a person ingests pre-formed toxin that leads to illness within a few hours to days. Foodborne botulism is a public health emergency because the contaminated food may still be available to other persons besides the patient.

Potentially hazardous food does not include:

  • A food with a water activity (aw) value of 0.85 or less
  • A food with a hydrogen ion concentration(pH) level of 4.6 or below when measured at 75°F.
  • A food in an unopened hermetically sealed container that is commercially processed to achieve and maintain commercial sterility under conditions of non-refrigerated storage and distribution
  • A food for which laboratory evidence demonstrates that rapid and progressive growth of infectious and toxigenic microorganisms or the slower growth of Clostridium botulinum cannot occur and which is granted a variance by the health authority.



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