Q: When I check the sanitation report cards of restaurants at the Health Departmen's facility rating website, I keep seeing the acronym PHF as one of the listed violations. What does PHF mean?
A: PHF is a term used by food-safety organizations to classify foods that require time-temperature control to keep them safe for human consumption. It stands for potentially hazardous foods.
The FDA has identified the following as PHFs:
* Meat (beef, pork, lamb)
* Poultry (chicken, turkey, duck)
* Shellfish and crustaceans
* Milk and dairy products
* Heat-treated plant food (cooked rice, beans or vegetables)
* Baked potatoes
* Certain synthetic ingredients
* Raw sprouts
* Tofu and soy-protein foods
* Untreated garlic and oil mixtures
The restaurant or eatery that received a PHF citation probably had at least one of these foods lying around at room temperature when the inspector came by.
Bacteria that grow at room temperature are usually assumed to be killed by high heat. But if the food is not thoroughly cooked or if the dish or end-product is raw-based, then the practice of leaving PHFs out in the air could prove sickening, even lethal.