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High-risk food: definition and examples

Updated: May 30, 2022

Wondering what’s the definition of high-risk foods? And which kinds of foods should you handle more carefully?

We’ve put together this quick guide to help you navigate this key concept of the world of food safety.

What is the definition of high-risk foods?

High-risk foods can be defined as ready-to-eat foods that support bacterial growth. These types of foods must be handled carefully and kept separate from raw foods.

Why is this so important?

Poor food hygiene can lead to serious consequences such as food poisoning incidents or even death. It can also lead to business and financial consequences such as customer complaints, brand damage, fines, and legal action. Therefore, it is in everyone’s interests to maintain the highest standards of food safety.

High-risk foods, in particular, tend to be involved in outbreaks of food poisoning, so make sure to follow the appropriate methods to ensure they are safe to eat.

Did you know? Food that has been contaminated usually looks, smells and tastes normal. This is why it’s critical to take all the necessary steps to prevent contamination and bacterial multiplication, so it does not present a risk to consumers’ health.

salad and burger on a wooden plate as an example of high-risk food

Examples of high-risk foods

High-risk foods are usually proteins like cooked meat, milk, or shellfish.

Raw meat that is meant to be cooked is not considered a high-risk food. This is because the food-poisoning bacteria will be destroyed by the cooking processes.

Here is a list with some examples of high-risk foods:

  • Cooked rice

  • Meat pies

  • Meat gravy

  • Sushi

  • Sashimi

  • Eggs and products made with raw eggs

  • Chicken liver parfait

  • Raw meat carpaccio

  • Ceviche

  • Burgers

  • Steak tartare

  • Fish tartare

  • Fish carpaccio

  • Oysters / molluscs

  • BBQ

  • Smoked salmon

  • Pink burgers

  • Dry-aged meat

  • Custard

  • Cheesecake

  • Ice cream

Preventing contamination

There are several steps you should take while handling high-risk foods, including:

  • Keep them separate from raw foods (use different utensils, work areas, etc.)

  • Keep them refrigerated & avoid leaving them at room temperature

  • Keep food-contact surfaces clean

  • Wash hands regularly

  • Do not re-freeze food that has already been defrosted

Foods that support bacterial multiplication need strict temperature controls as well as effective protection from contamination, especially from raw foods like meat, poultry and fish.

Raw meat can contain food-poisoning bacteria like Salmonella or E.coli, which is why it should be kept separate from ready-to-eat foods.

cheesecake dessert with berries and flowers on a transparent plate

HACCP documentation

According to the Food Standards Agency, every food business must have a food safety management system in place that is based on the principles of Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP).

If you sell any high-risk foods in your restaurant, pub or hotel, your HACCP plan should reflect this - it should describe in detail all the necessary safe methods and best practices that your team must follow.

You should also document your food temperature checks and records to demonstrate due diligence and ensure that the food you’re selling is safe to eat. You can do this digitally with a food hygiene app like Hubl, for instance.

What about low-risk foods?

Low-risk foods are unlikely to be implicated in food-poisoning incidents.

Bacteria cannot grow and multiply in dry foods and foods that contain high concentrations of salt, acid, or sugar.

Did you know? Bacteria prefer foods that contain lots of moisture and nutrients.

Examples of low-risk foods include:

  • Jam

  • Chocolate

  • Bread

  • Biscuits

  • Salami

  • Pickles


Here at Hubl, we love talking about all things hospitality. Whether you’re learning about food safety or researching the latest industry trends, we’ve got you covered.



Trading Standards Institute Advice: High-Risk Foods Leaflet, Bromley Gov London Borough, Accessed in April 2022

Health & Safety Services: High and Low Risk Foods, University of Warwick, Accessed in April 2022


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