Monday, December 7, 2009

Food Safety Hazards

(This post is Part 3 of a series of HACCP training blogs and is a continuation of our earlier post Prerequisite Programmes for HACCP)

Food safety hazards are found throughout the food supply chain and can be described as:

‘biological, physical or chemical agents in food that are reasonably likely to cause illness or injury in the absence of their control.’

There are three main types of food safety hazards:

1. Biological Hazards Caused by bacteria, viruses or parasites that are present in air, food, water, soil, animals and humans.

Food infections and food intoxications can cause severe vomiting, diarrhoea, nausea, abdominal pain and fever to one or lots of people, they can even result in death in some serious cases.

Biological hazards receive the most attention in HACCP systems due to presenting the greatest risk of harm and the highest frequency of occurrence.

Microorganisms of concern include:

Salmonella species, Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus, Shigella, Clostridium perfringens, Clostridium botulinum, Listeria monocytogenes, Campylobacter, Hepatitis A and Rotovirus.

2. Physical Hazards Foreign bodies in food are usually due to accidental contamination and / or poor handling practices. Physical hazards are most recognized by consumers as they usually find this food safety hazard.

Examples of physical hazards include:

Metal, glass, wood, insects, stones, soil, dirt, jewellery, hair, fingernails, plasters, personal items, bone, nuts / bolts, wire, plastic, paper and cardboard.

3. Chemical Hazards Can include:

CLEANING CHEMICAL RESIDUES: Chemicals used for cleaning and sanitizing food contact surfaces

FACTORY CONTAMINANTS: Pest control chemicals, lubricants, coatings, paints, refrigerants and water treatment chemicals

AGRICULTURAL RESIDUES: Pesticides, fertilizers, fungicides, antibiotics and growth hormones

FOOD ALLERGENS: Eggs, fish, milk, peanuts, sesame seeds, soy, sulphites, tree nuts and wheat

NATURALLY OCCURRING HARMFUL CHEMICALS: Mycotoxins, scombrotoxin (histamine), mushroom toxins and shellfish toxins

INDUSTRIAL HEAVY METALS: Lead, zinc, cadmium, arsenic and mercury.

Food safety hazards are best controlled through the use of HACCP systems. All significant food safety hazards at each stage of production must be identified in a HACCP plan. Once you know where food safety hazards occur, it is possible to implement control measures to prevent, reduce or eliminate food safety hazards to an acceptable level.

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