Food Hazards & its Classification, Biological, Chemical & Physical Hazards

Food Hazards 

A food safety hazard is an agent or condition in food that could potentially cause an adverse human health effect. “A food hazard is a biological, chemical or physical agent in a food with the potential to cause adverse health effects” (CAC). “A biological, chemical or physical agent in, or condition of food with the potential to cause adverse health effect is a food hazard” (FSSAI). These hazards can be naturally present in foods or can be introduced during production, processing, packaging, storage, and handling. Hence, reliable identification and characterization of hazards for any supply chain, food, and a group of consumers is an essential basis for risk assessment.

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Classification of hazard

On the basis of nature, the hazard can be classified into three categories as follows:

Biological hazard

Biological hazards, also known as biohazards refer to living organisms present in food that pose a threat to the health of humans when consumed. Many biological hazards associated with food (viruses, parasites, fungi, and bacteria) are a common cause of food poisoning and food spoilage. For example, Escherichia coli, Salmonella, Listeria, Yersinia, and Clostridium when present in food, cause food poisoning and spoilage leading to sickness, disease, or death of people consuming the infected food. Hepatitis-A and Norwalk viruses are examples of viral hazards associated with ready-to-eat foods. Biological hazards are introduced into food primarily through contact with soil, contaminated air or water, infected persons, and animals. Improper design, maintenance, and cleaning of processing and storage facilities and equipment may also lead to microbial or biohazard.

Chemical hazard

A chemical can be considered a hazard if its presence in the food by virtue of its intrinsic properties can cause harm or danger to the human. When compounds generally recognized as safe (antioxidants, sulfiting agents, additives, preservatives, and antibiotics) are not used according to government regulatory guidelines, exceeded their limits in food and thus become a hazard. lodine as potassium iodate is used to produce iodized salt, when applied at the rate of 20 mg potassium iodate per 1000 mg of table salt, the chemical is beneficial in preventing goiter, while iodine intakes of 1200-9500 mg in one dose have been known to cause death. The use of prohibited colorants, flavors, and adulterants are also a source of chemical hazard in food. Therefore, it is incumbent upon the processor to ensure that such chemical compounds are used with strict adherence to existing regulations and product specifications.

Other chemicals include products with commercial uses like pesticides, refrigerants, lubricants, and machinery oil as well as products developed for home use like sanitizer, when used carelessly can find a way into food and thus pose a threat to humans. Bioaccumulation of pesticides like DDT and heavy metals like lead, arsenic, zinc in plants and animals may lead to adverse health effects when consumed. Also when food is packed in newspaper or put in colored polythene bags then metals like lead and tin comes into food and ultimately to humans leading to carcinogenic effects. Mycotoxin and alkaloids (glycoalkaloids in potato) associated with food are also grouped as chemical hazards.

Physical hazard

A physical hazard is any material not normally found in food that can produce an injury or illness to the consumer. These foreign particles can enter the food through raw materials during harvesting, processing, packaging, storage, and transport; ultimately affecting the product’s safety. Examples of physical hazards that can compromise food safety include metal fragments, gravel, plastic, glass particles, jewelry, etc. These hazards can cause choking, cuts, and bruises in the mouth and gastrointestinal system. Prevention methods can rely on visual examination, frequent inspections of equipment, and the use of metal and glass detectors. 

Read More Topics of the Same Course – ABT 5211 – Food Safety and Standards

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