Food Safety and the Different Types of Food Contamination (2022)

Food Safety and the Different Types of Food Contamination (1)

Food contamination happens when something gets into food that shouldn’t be there. Contaminated food can have dire consequences for the person who eats it, and for the business who sold it.

(Video) 3 Types of Food Contamination That You Must Know About

Food Handlers must be trained to handle food safely, practise good personal hygiene and prevent cross-contamination to protect customers — and their employers — from the consequences of food-borne illness, allergic reactions to food or injuries from contaminated food.

There are three types of food contamination: biological, chemical and physical contamination. Learn how they occur, and ways to prevent them.

Biological contamination

Biological contamination is when disease-causing bacteria or other harmful microorganisms called “pathogens” contaminate food and are consumed; it is a common cause of food poisoning and food spoilage. Bacteria are small microorganisms that split and multiply very quickly. In conditions ideal for bacterial growth, one single-cell bacteria can become two million in just seven hours.

Certain types of bacteria also produce bacterial toxins in the process of multiplying and producing waste. Bacterial toxins can be very dangerous — in fact, botulinum, the bacterial toxin that causes botulism, is the most potent natural poison known.

It's important to remember that all foods can harbour dangerous pathogens. Norovirus, for example, doesn't grow or multiply on food, but it can survive for days or even weeks on any type of food and is a leading cause of food-borne illness in Australia.

HIGH-RISK FOODS

Certain foods are more vulnerable to biological contamination than others because they provide everything bacteria need to survive and multiply — food, water and neutral acidity (pH). These are called high-risk foods.

When high-risk foods are left in the Temperature Danger Zone (5ºC – 60ºC) for too long, Food Handlers provide the other conditions bacteria need to grow — time and the right temperature. To slow down bacteria growth and minimise the risk of biological food contamination, Food Handlers must always follow safe food handling practices:

  • Keep high-risk foods (e.g. meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, dairy) out of the Temperature Danger Zone.
  • Properly purchase, store, thaw, prepare, cook and serve high-risk foods.
  • Follow a regular cleaning and sanitising schedule for all food contact surfaces and equipment, and ensure you are following the correct steps for cleaning and sanitising.
  • Maintain high standards of hygiene and sanitation of the premises, including personal hygiene for all staff.

Chemical contamination

Chemical contamination occurs when chemicals get into food. Common sources of chemical contamination in a commercial kitchen include:

  • Kitchen cleaning agents: Never keep food stored in the same place as your cleaning chemicals, and always use cleaning products designed especially for kitchen use.
  • Unwashed fruits and vegetables: Pesticides and fungicides on fruits and vegetables can be harmful if ingested, so it’s important to properly wash all fruits and vegetables before preparing them.
  • Food containers made from non-safe plastics: Single-use items like plastic containers are not designed to be reused again and again. Always store food in containers that are specially designed for reuse.
  • Pest control products: Pest control products are extremely hazardous. Always store these products away from food items and never use these products in areas where food is being prepared.
  • Kitchen equipment: Equipment with moving parts, such as slicers and mixers, may need regular oiling. Always use food-safe oil to prevent chemical residues from contaminating food.

Physical contamination

Physical contamination happens when physical objects enter food. Common sources of physical contamination include:

  • Hair: Always wear hair neatly tied back and wear a hairnet if possible.
  • Glass or metal: Cracked or broken crockery and utensils should be thrown away, as well as any food that might have come into contact with it.
  • Pests: Pests — such as mice, rats and cockroaches — leave droppings (urine, saliva, fur, faeces) that can contaminate food. Pests themselves can also make their way into food.
  • Jewellery: It is not recommended to wear jewellery when handling food. In some regions, it may be restricted by local laws or regulations.
  • Dirt: Because dirt is so small, it’s easy not to notice it. Dirt often gets into food via unwashed food and vegetables.
  • Fingernails: Always keep nails short and clean to prevent contamination. Avoid wearing fake nails as these can easily fall off and contaminate food.

Cross-contamination

In a food setting, cross-contamination refers to the transfer of contaminants from a surface, object or person to food. This can happen in many different ways. Common causes of cross-contamination include:

  • Clothing: Dirty clothes can transport bacteria from one place to another. If possible, clothing should be replaced when moving from one work area to another. You should also thoroughly wash your face and hands. This is especially important when working with high-risk foods or when preparing allergen-free meals.
  • Utensils: Different utensils should be used to prepare different types of foods. For example, you should never use the same chopping board or knife to prepare raw meat and ready-to-eat foods.
  • Food Handlers: Coughing, sneezing or even touching your face or hair before handling food can cause cross-contamination. Washing hands regularly when handling food is essential. Display the AIFS Correct Hand Washing Method Poster around all hand washing stations to remind staff of the proper steps to take.
  • Pests: Flies, cockroaches, mice and rats carry harmful bacteria, which they can transport from one place to another. Pest control is vitally important in the workplace when it comes to preventing cross-contamination. Learn more about how to effectively prevent pests from getting into your food business with the AIFS Guide to Pest Prevention and Control.
  • Raw food storage: Cross-contamination frequently occurs when raw food comes into contact with cooked or ready-to-eat food. If this happens, it's fair to assume the cooked or ready-to-eat food has become contaminated. Raw food should always be covered and stored below ready-to-eat food in the refrigerator to prevent this type of contamination.
  • Waste control: Garbage should be stored and sealed correctly to prevent cross-contamination. It should always be stored away from other items in the kitchen to ensure it never comes into contact with food during preparation. Regular cleaning and sanitising of waste bins should also be carried out to minimise the risk of pest infestation.

Preventing food contamination

The best way to prevent food contamination from happening in a food business is through food safety training and education. Food Handlers must be trained in fundamental food safety concepts and practical skills, such as:

(Video) Types of Food Contamination - Food Safety and Sanitation

  • safe cooking temperatures
  • proper storage and preparation of high-risk foods (also called 'potentially hazardous foods')
  • effective cleaning and sanitising techniques
  • the importance of personal hygiene and their legal responsibilities with regards to food safety

AIFS provides online food safety training for all levels of responsibility in a food business or organisation, including the nationally recognised online Food Handler Course and Food Safety Supervisor Course.

Find the Food Safety Course for your needs and start your training today! If you have any questions about which training is right for you or your team, contact us and we’ll be more than happy to assist.

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FAQs

Food Safety and the Different Types of Food Contamination? ›

There are four main types of contamination: chemical, microbial, physical, and allergenic. All food is at risk of contamination from these four types. This is why food handlers have a legal responsibility to ensure that the food they prepare is free from these contaminants and safe for the consumer.

What are the different types of contamination in food? ›

While there are many food safety hazards that can cause food contamination, most fall into one of three categories: biological, physical or chemical contamination. In many cases, a single hazard can introduce more than one type of contamination to food.

What are the 3 main types of contamination? ›

Here are the three types of contaminants: Biological: Examples include bacteria, viruses, parasites, fungi, and toxins from plants, mushrooms, and seafood. Physical: Examples include foreign objects such as dirt, broken glass, metal staples, and bones. Chemical: Examples include cleaners, sanitizers, and polishes.

What are 5 ways food can be contaminated? ›

Main routes to contamination

There are four main routes to food contamination: cross-contamination, improper hand washing, inappropriate storage and temperatures, and contamination by animal waste.

What are the 10 food contamination sources? ›

Major contamination sources are water, air, dust, equipment, sewage, insects, rodents, and employees. Contamination of raw materials can also occur from the soil, sewage, live animals, external surface, and the internal organs of meat animals.

What is meant by food contamination? ›

Food contamination is generally defined as foods that are spoiled or tainted because they either contain microorganisms, such as bacteria or parasites, or toxic substances that make them unfit for consumption. A food contaminant can be biological, chemical or physical in nature, with the former being more common.

What is contamination and examples? ›

The term contaminants includes any unwanted matter that is found in the product. These contaminants affect the quality of the product or the process. The most common types of contaminant include: Physical contamination. Examples: fiber material, particles, chips from your pill press tooling.

What is the most common type of food contamination? ›

Bacterial contamination is thought to be the most common cause of food poisoning worldwide, and the best way to protect against it occurring is by maintaining the best food safety practices. Physical contamination refers to food that has been contaminated by a foreign object at some stage of the production process.

What are the three main causes of food contamination? ›

There are three ways that food can be contaminated:
  • biological hazards (microorganisms) including bacteria, fungi, yeasts, mould and viruses.
  • chemical hazards. including cleaning chemicals or foods with naturally occurring toxins, such as green potatoes.
  • physical hazards.

What are the 3 sources of food contamination? ›

There are three types of food contamination: biological, chemical and physical contamination.

What are the 4 main types of food contamination? ›

There are four main types of contamination: chemical, microbial, physical, and allergenic.

What are the 4 types of food hazards? ›

Food hazards may be biological, chemical, physical, allergenic, nutritional and/or biotechnology-related.

How can we prevent food contamination? ›

When preparing food:
  1. Wash hands and surfaces often. ...
  2. Wash hands with soap and hot water before and after handling food, and after using the bathroom, changing diapers; or handling pets.
  3. Use hot, soapy water and paper towels or clean cloths to wipe up kitchen surfaces or spills.

What causes contamination? ›

Contamination typically comes from particular industrial, agricultural or commercial activities. For example, chemical or waste spills and leaks. The reasons for contamination can include: poor waste management.

What are the effects of food contamination? ›

Foodborne illnesses are usually infectious or toxic in nature and caused by bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemical substances entering the body through contaminated food. Chemical contamination can lead to acute poisoning or long-term diseases, such as cancer.

What are 5 physical contaminants? ›

Examples of Physical Contamination

Common examples of physical contaminants include hair, bandages, fingernails, jewelry, broken glass, metal, paint flakes, bone, the body parts of pests, or pest droppings.

What are the 4 types of food spoilage? ›

The main cause of food spoilage is invasion by microorganisms such as fungi and bacteria.
  • 1 Microbial spoilage. Microbial spoilage is caused by microorganisms like fungi (moulds, yeasts) and bacteria. ...
  • 2 Physical spoilage. ...
  • 3 Chemical spoilage. ...
  • 4 Appearance of spoiled food.

What are the 3 sources of food contamination? ›

There are three types of food contamination: biological, chemical and physical contamination.

What are the 4 types of food hazards? ›

Food hazards may be biological, chemical, physical, allergenic, nutritional and/or biotechnology-related.

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