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Foods -- Vegetables

Why is a baked potato classified as a potentially hazardous food?

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Because potatoes are grown in the soil, they are a natural source of Clostridium botulinum. C. botulinum could grow in a cooked, foil wrapped baked potato that is not maintained at proper temperature because the combination of cooking and foil wrap create an anaerobic condition. C. botulinum requires an anaerobic (oxygen-free) environment in which to grow.

An outbreak associated with improperly held foil wrapped baked potatoes actually occurred in a foodservice establishment. The outbreak involved an oven full of cooked, foil wrapped potatoes. After cooking, the oven was turned off and the potatoes were allowed to cool in the oven overnight. The foil wrapping and the warm oven made the conditions right for the growth of Clostridium botulinum and the subsequent development of botulinum toxin. The next day the potatoes were used to make potato salad. The consumers of the potato salad became sick.

Therefore, it is recommended that cooked potatoes be kept hot or cold to prevent the formation of toxin.

PREPARED BY: Angela M. Fraser, Ph.D., Associate Professor/Food Safety Education Specialist, NC State University

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