Understanding Physical Food Contamination

Anyone working in the food industry must have a good knowledge of what physical food contamination means. Food is often prepared in very busy and stressful settings which makes ensuring that food is safe and properly cooked even more challenging.

Physical contamination can occur wherever food is being prepared, such as :

  • Cafes
  • Fast Food Restaurants
  • Takeaways
  • Bakeries
  • Factories
  • Restaurants
  • Canteens

One of the dangers is that a physical item enters that food when it shouldn’t be there. For consumers, finding a foreign object in food can be extremely unpleasant, leading to worries about possible illness from the contamination. A foreign object could be a breeding ground for unknown bacteria, increasing the risk of possible sickness. Objects in food can also cause a choking hazard.

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Most physical contamination occurs completely accidentally but there have been shocking cases where objects have been placed into foodstuffs deliberately as an act of sabotage. Such actions result in what is known as a ‘food incident’ and it can shake public confidence considerably. For advice on a Food Hygiene Check, go to https://hygienecheck.net

Food incidents can occur due to contamination during the production stage, when being prepared or through distribution processes. They can also take the form of environmental contamination from leaks of chemicals, oil or radiation, for example.

When food incidents occur, the affected products are often subject to recalls. Food businesses must have a strong knowledge of their supply chains so as to take corrective action, identify the products and remove them from sale. Advice on what to do in the event of a food recall can be found by contacting the Food Standards Agency Incidents Response Team.

When a food incident occurs, the affected business must complete a Root Cause Analysis along with their local authority. The aim of this analysis is to identify what went wrong and how such mistakes can be avoided in the future. They provide invaluable information for businesses on how to monitor supply chains and the importance of traceability.

Physical food contamination can be the result of a server’s hair falling into some food, a simple mistake or unfortunate accident. However, simple things like this could be indicative of a bigger problem within the business. Is the kitchen too cramped, too busy, are staff not wearing protective equipment? A food incident gives a business a chance to look at their processes from start to finish in order to make improvements.

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Physical contaminants fall into four main categories:

Chemical – contamination can be as a result of chemical additives being added incorrectly or by accident and include toxins, detergents, oils and other pollutants.

Biological – caused by microorganisms from anything alive and their by-products.

Cross-contamination – caused by poor handling processes with contaminants being passed from one surface to another.

Physical – An object that is not meant to be inside anything edible, whether synthetic or biological in nature.

To avoid the potential for food incidents, training and education is essential for food based businesses. Safe processes must be applied and continually checked for compliance.

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