The microbial conversion of toxic substrates into valuable products in continuous culture requires the equivalent of a tight rope walk between formation of the desired product and intoxication of the microbial catalyst. The condition of the latter is reflected immediately by changes in heat flow rate and β-dispersion in an electrical RF field. Therefore, these were applied to the example of the continuous growth-associated synthesis of polyhydroxyalcanoates (PHA) from phenol by the bacterial strain Variovorax paradoxus DSM 4065. By controlling the supply of phenol to the chemostat, the rates of degradation, biomass formation, and synthesis of target product, respectively, were increasingly elevated until the onset of poisoning the organisms. The boundary between the maximum rates and the initiation of intoxication coincided with a sudden change in the heat flux. Using this occurrence, it was possible to develop a control strategy and test it successfully for a time period of 80 h. After 40 h the process stabilized at mean values, i.e., at rates of 92% phenol degradation, 100% biomass formation, and 70 – 75% of PHA formation compared with the situation shortly before poisoning the organisms. Using a moving-average technique to filter the raw dielectric spectroscope data, changes were followed in biomass concentration of approximately 100 mg/L. However, this technique was not sensitive or rapid enough to control the process. © 2004 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.