High risk foods and food processing

Food businesses have a legal responsibility to make sure all food is processed safely. Certain high risk PHFs or high-risk processes require additional care to make sure that safe food is produced. On this page we provide guidance on some high-risk foods and processes.

Foods containing raw or partially cooked eggs

Raw egg products are foods that contain eggs which are uncooked or only partially cooked, meaning the cooking process won’t destroy Salmonella. Examples include:

  • sauces and dressings – e.high g. mayonnaise, hollandaise sauce, aioli, tartare and raw egg butter
  • desserts – for example tiramisu, mousse, home-made ice cream, and fried-ice cream batter
  • drinks – for example protein drinks that contain raw egg
  • meat dishes – for example steak tartare, Japanese sukiyaki and Korean yuk hew

These products are high risk and food businesses that make these products need to be aware of the associated risks. Raw egg dishes should not be served to vulnerable people for example children, pregnant women, immune-compromised or elderly people because of the inherent risk from the product. Further information on handling and storage of eggs and raw egg products can be found on the egg food safety page.

Raw and rare meat dishes

Raw and rare meat dishes such as steak tartare, ceviche and undercooked mince meat burgers are gaining in popularity on menus across SA. While they can be a tasty addition to the menu, raw meat can be contaminated with bacteria like Salmonella, Campylobacter and pathogenic E.coli. If making these foods businesses must have precautions in place to help avoid contamination coming in to the business, spreading around the kitchen and ultimately making its way to customers. Precautions include:

  • sourcing high quality whole muscle meat portions from reputable suppliers
  • storing meat on the bottom shelf of the fridge, below ready-to-eat foods
  • storing meat at or below 5°C before preparation and service
  • washing hands thoroughly before and after processing
  • preparing meats away from areas where ready-to-eat foods are prepared and in areas that have been cleaned and sanitised
  • use a separate knife and chopping board for trimming the outside of the meat and chopping the inside of the meat (or clean and sanitise the board and knife between processes)
  • clean and sanitise all meat processing equipment and areas after use

Minced meat, such as in hamburger patties and sausages, should generally not be served rare or raw, they should be cooked thoroughly to 75°C, as the mincing process distributes pathogens from the outside of the meat through the entire product. If your business serves raw or undercooked minced meat foods, the meat should be minced on-site from high-quality whole muscle and used immediately.

Raw meat dishes should not be served to vulnerable people for example children, pregnant women, immune-compromised or elderly people because of the inherent risk of the product. 

Vacuum packing ready-to-eat meats

Some businesses use vacuum packaging as a way to prolong the shelf life of ready-to-eat meats such as salami, turkey or ham. Vacuum packaging (VAC) and modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) of ready-to-eat meats is a high-risk process. While VAC or MAP reduces the growth of spoilage bacteria, it provides ideal conditions for the growth of pathogenic bacteria such as Listeria monocytogenes (L.mono) which can grow in low oxygen and refrigerated environments.

L.mono causes very serious infection in older people, pregnant woman, new borns and people with weakened immune systems and kills 20% to 30% of people who become ill from it. Businesses undertaking this activity must understand the risks and the additional requirements.

If your business wants to vacuum package ready-to-eat meat with a shelf life of longer than 5 days you will be required to implement documentation and monitoring of Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) and Good Hygiene Practices (GHPs) and will be audited at least annually as per the requirements under Standard 4.2.3 Meat. For more information please visit the Vacuum packing ready-to-eat meat food safety requirements page.

Sous vide cooking

Sous vide cooking is a cooking method that has been around for many years and is the process of sealing food, usually a protein like chicken or beef often with some herbs and spices, in a vacuum sealed bag and then cooking the bagged food in a pot of water at a certain temperature over a certain period of time.

The sous vide process has some hazards including that:

  • foods are held in the temperature danger zone for long periods of time meaning bacteria can grow during that time;
  • foods can have cold tolerant pathogens in them which can grow when stored in the fridge for long periods of time; and
  • when foods are cooked at low temperatures for relatively short periods of time, pathogenic bacteria and parasites can survive.

To manage these hazards it is important to follow validated sous vide time and temperature methods, sourced from up to date guidelines and resources as well as using strict hygiene procedures. Steps to minimise risks are listed in Safe Food Australia 3rd Edition and NSW Food Authority’s Sous Vide — Food Safety Precautions for Restaurants which provides further detail on sous vide cooking methods.


The sushi making process has food safety risks that are unique to it. The risks with sushi production are generally linked to unsafe preparation and storage of the main ingredients – raw seafood, raw vegetables, eggs, chicken, beef and cooked rice. These ingredients are potentially hazardous foods which support the growth of food poisoning bacteria so they need to be handled with care. The following guideline provides information on safe handling tips from receipt of ingredients through to sale of the final product:

Cross contamination from equipment used for high risk foods

Equipment used for high risk foods can transfer bacteria from one food product to another if they are not cleaned and sanitised adequately between use. To help reduce the risk of this happening, it can be useful for business to use specific equipment for specific foods, like when businesses use different coloured chopping boards for meats and vegetables Food businesses also need to make sure that their equipment is maintained in a good state of repair so that bacteria can’t hide in cracks or crevices and then contaminate foods at a later time.

One specific example of cross contamination is piping bags used in bakeries. When piping bags are used for potentially hazardous foods that aren’t cooked later, like whipped cream or custard, cross-contamination can occur if the piping bags aren’t cleaned and sanitised properly and residue, which can contain bacteria like Salmonella, is present. If present  bacteria left at room temperature can quickly grow to unsafe levels and then contaminate the next product the piping bag content is used to make. Cross-contamination can also occur when piping bags are used for uncooked potentially hazardous food like sausage meat or pie meat and then used for ready-to-eat foods like fresh cream or custard.

Cross contamination through re-use of piping bags has been linked to outbreaks in SA, nationally and internationally. The Risks Associated With the Use of Piping Bags (PDF 201KB) fact sheet provides information on safe processing tips for businesses that use piping bags