Potentially hazardous foods

Everyone should be aware of potentially hazardous foods as well as behaviours that can help minimise the risk of food poisoning.  This applies to consumers at home, as well as food handling businesses and those coordinating fundraising or non-profit activities involving food in any way.

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, curries and lasagne
  • dairy products such as milk, custard and dairy‐based desserts
  • seafood (excluding live seafood)
  • processed or cut fruits and vegetables, such as salads
  • cooked rice and pasta
  • foods containing egg, beans, nuts or other protein‐rich food such as quiche and soy products
  • foods that contain any of the above foods including sandwiches and rolls.

Be aware of how you prepare, store and serve  these foods at home but also for picnics, when packing school lunch boxes, donating to charities, or taking food  home in doggy bags from restaurants.

Find fact sheets that provide more information about:


Seafood can have different types of toxins, that occur naturally in fish, which can be hard to identify.

Always purchase seafood from a reputable seller. The fish should have clear unsunken eyes and firm flesh and it should be kept refrigerated until use.

Some of the more common types of fish related poisoning or issues with fish include:

  • Ciguatera fish poisoning can result from eating warm water ocean finfish that carry ciguatera poison (a toxin).  Ciguatera toxin does not affect the appearance, odour or taste of fish, no matter how much is present. Processes like cooking and freezing will not destroy it and there is no known culinary method that can remove it from a fish.
  • Scombroid (or histamine) poisoning can occur when fish such as tuna, mackerel, bonito, sardines, marlin and butterfly kingfish are not chilled and stored properly and the flesh of the fish starts to decompose.
  • Escolar and oilfish fish have been found responsible for a number of food poisoning outbreaks involving a type of oily diarrhoea, called keriorrhoea. This is caused by an indigestible oil contained in these fish.
  • Shellfish can also carry naturally occurring toxins that can cause poisoning in humans.
  • Seafood substitution—this can deceive and mislead consumers—what they receive may be different to what was requested. Seafood substitution can also pose a significant risk to public health and safety, due to the inability to trace the product sold, in the event of an urgent food recall. It is an offence to provide a false description of food.

The Australian Standard Fish Name List includes names of fish, crustacean and shellfish.

Read more about food safety risks associated with seafood