Food Contamination: Types, Risks, and Solutions 

31/08/2023by admin0Read: 9 minutes

Food contamination is a serious concern for food businesses in Australia and the world as it can pose a significant health risk to consumers’ health.

In this article, we will explore food contamination, its types and its significant impact on the well-being of consumers. We have also included preventive measures to help food organisations and their employees in keeping food contamination at bay!

Food Contamination

Food that has been contaminated by a different substance—be it physical, biological, or chemical—is referred to as contaminated food.

Food contamination can occur through various sources, including improper handling, storage, or transportation of food, as well as contamination during production, processing, or distribution. Whether it is due to inadequate sanitation practices, cross-contamination, or the presence of harmful substances, food contamination can lead to severe health issues such as foodborne illnesses, allergies, and even life-threatening diseases.

Hence, with the alarming consequences, it becomes crucial for individuals, food businesses, food consulting agencies, and regulatory bodies to work collectively towards preventing food contamination.

Types of Food Contamination

Below described are the key types of food contamination:

1) Biological Contamination

Food that has been corrupted by organisms or the compounds they generate is referred to as biologically contaminated food. This comprises biological material created by people, rodents, insects, and bacteria.

Salmonella, E. coli, listeria, and Norovirus are some of the most prevalent kinds of food poisoning, and viruses and bacteria are often the two main drivers of biological contamination. Two of the greatest strategies to guard against bacterial contamination are to thoroughly wash your hands and sanitise the food handling equipment.

2) Physical Contamination

A foreign object contaminating food is referred to as physical contamination. Steel wool, Band-Aids, or bits of plastic may be used in this at any point of the creation process.

An individual who unintentionally swallows this foreign object may suffer physical harm.

Furthermore, the possibility of the foreign object of containing biological contamination adds to the danger of physical contamination.

3) Chemical Contamination

Food that has been infected by a natural or synthetic chemical ingredient is referred to as chemically contaminated food. These pollutants are particularly hazardous because they expose individuals to a wide range of harmful compounds, some of which are lethal.

Additionally, chemicals may contaminate food at any stage of the production process, whether it be through pesticides that are transmitted from the soil the food was produced in or during processing. To prevent chemical contamination, it is crucial to store chemicals and food in different locations.

4) Cross-contamination

Cross-contamination occurs when biological, chemical as well as physical contaminants enter food, and make it unsafe for consumption. Cross-contamination is a serious issue for food businesses at it can cause food-borne diseases to the consumers eating such cross-contaminated food.

Hence, it is crucial to train employees handling food to ensure hygiene and safety, thus preventing cross-contamination.

Types of Microorganisms that Contaminate Food

Food contamination can occur due to the presence of various types of microorganisms. These microorganisms not only affect the quality and freshness of food but can also pose serious health risks. Here are some of the common types of microorganisms that contaminate food:

1) Bacteria:

  • Salmonella: This bacterium is commonly found in raw eggs, poultry, and other meats.
  • E. coli: E. coli bacteria can be present in undercooked ground beef, contaminated water, and raw vegetables.
  • Listeria: Listeria can be present in a variety of foods, including deli meats, soft cheeses, and unpasteurized milk.

2) Viruses:

  • Norovirus: Norovirus is a common viral infection that can contaminate food through infected individuals and contaminated water.
  • Hepatitis A: Hepatitis A virus can be present in contaminated water, raw shellfish, and fruits and vegetables.

3) Fungi:

  • Mold: Mold can contaminate food, especially bread, fruits, and dairy products, leading to spoilage and potential health risks.
  • Yeast: Yeasts are often responsible for fermenting certain foods, but they can also cause spoilage in high-moisture products.

4) Parasites:

  • Toxoplasma gondii: This parasite can be found in undercooked or raw meat, as well as contaminated soil and water.
  • Trichinella spiralis: Trichinella spiralis is a parasite commonly found in undercooked pork and wild game.

These different microorganisms pose varying risks to human health. Some can cause mild to severe gastrointestinal symptoms, while others can lead to organ damage or even death. It is crucial to understand and mitigate these risks to ensure food safety.

Food Safety Guidelines and Procedures

Food businesses can employ good food handling practices and prepare a food management system outlining HACCP or Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points to ensure they adhere to all the regulatory requirements. They can take assistance from experienced food consultants for the same.

1) Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP)

Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP)

Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points, commonly known as HACCP, is a systematic approach to food safety. It involves identifying and assessing potential hazards at different stages of the food production process. By implementing preventive measures and monitoring critical control points, HACCP helps to minimize the risk of food contamination.

2) Importance of Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP)

Importance of Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP)

Good Manufacturing Practices, or GMP, are guidelines and regulations that ensure the hygiene and safety of food products during their manufacturing process. These practices cover various aspects, including personal hygiene, sanitation, facility maintenance, and proper storage and handling of ingredients. Adhering to GMP helps reduce the likelihood of food contamination and ensures the production of high-quality and safe food products.

3) Food Handling Guidelines, Inspections

In addition to HACCP and GMP, there are specific guidelines for proper food handling, including storage, preparation, cooking, and serving. Regular inspections are conducted by regulatory bodies to ensure compliance with these guidelines.

Food businesses should comply with the FSANZ Standard 3.2, which mandates all employees who prepare, handle, or serve food are required to complete food safety training.

4) Regulatory Bodies and Standards

Regulatory bodies play a crucial role in establishing and enforcing food safety standards. Food Safety Australia New Zealand or FSANZ Standard 3.2 and the Food Act are mandatory for food businesses to adhere to in Australia. These set guidelines and regulations that food establishments are mandated to follow. They conduct inspections, audits, and investigations to ensure compliance and take necessary actions against non-compliant entities.

By enforcing food safety standards, regulatory bodies aim to protect public health and reduce the risk of food contamination incidents.

Prevention and Control Measures

Below are the key prevention and control measures for food business owners and employees to follow:

1) Proper Food Handling and Storage Practices

Proper Food Handling and Storage Practices

Proper food handling and storage practices are crucial in preventing food contamination. This includes storing food at appropriate temperatures, separating raw and cooked foods, and avoiding cross-contamination. By following these practices, the risk of foodborne illnesses can be significantly reduced.

2) Hygiene and Sanitation Practices 

Hygiene and Sanitation Practices 

Food Companies must maintain high standards of hygiene and sanitation to prevent food contamination. This includes regularly cleaning and sanitizing surfaces, utensils, and equipment, as well as promoting personal hygiene among staff members. By implementing these practices, food establishments can ensure the safety of their products and protect consumers from potential health risks.

3) Food Testing and Analysis Procedures

Food Testing and Analysis Procedures

Food analysis and testing processes are essential for locating and recognising food contamination. These steps entail gathering samples, running tests in the lab, and evaluating the outcomes to check for the presence of dangerous germs or chemicals. Potential causes of contamination can be found and the proper action can be taken to address the issue by routinely testing and analysing food samples.

4) Traceability Systems and Role in Identifying Contamination Sources

To locate and follow the sources of food contamination, traceability systems are essential. The supply chain movement of food goods is tracked and recorded by these systems using cutting-edge technology. By putting in place traceability mechanisms, it is simpler to pinpoint the source of affected food and take the required precautions to stop additional contamination.

5) Public Education Programs to Promote Awareness of Food Safety 

Public education programs are essential for raising consumer knowledge of food safety. These initiatives seek to inform the public about the need to read food labels, proper food handling procedures, and the dangers of food contamination. Consumers may make wise decisions and take the necessary steps to avoid foodborne diseases by raising their awareness and understanding.

Guidelines to Prepare and Clean Food

Guidelines to Prepare and Clean Food

Below are the guidelines to prepare and clean food properly to prevent contamination by Anitech’s experts:

1) Prepare Cooked and Raw Foods Separately

When bacteria from raw food spread to food that is ready to consume, it is the most frequent way that cross-contamination occurs. The transmission doesn’t even require contact between the two food products. If a cutting board, knife, or hands are contaminated by germs from raw meat, the bacteria may transfer to an uncooked food item if the area is not adequately cleaned.

2) Preventing Transfer of Bacteria from Raw to Cooked Foods

Following the preparation of one meal type, properly wash your hands and all your utensils before using them on another. Be careful to clean off all food residue, and use hot, soapy water to kill any bacteria present, thus preventing it from transferring to the next raw meal waiting in the pipeline to be cooked.

3) Store Food Correctly

Incorrect food storage in refrigerators and cool rooms can also lead to cross-contamination. When defrosting raw meat, especially, the flesh will lose blood or fluids. Food below may become contaminated if meat products are kept on shelves above other foods if the shelves are left open.

4) Preventing Food Storage Issues

All meat should be stored in leak-proof containers on the bottom shelf or in an area without any other potentially damaged foods.

5) Ensure Equipment is Properly Washed

Food particles and germs can hide in the crevices of several kitchen tools and equipment. Bacteria can spread to the next batch of food being produced if kitchen employees are not meticulous about washing or verifying that objects are sufficiently cleaned.

6) Preventing Cross-Contamination with Dishwashing

Ensure buying kitchen equipment can be readily disassembled and cleaned properly. The best approach to sterilise kitchen utensils is to run them through a dishwasher, where the water may be considerably hotter than when washed by hand. This will destroy bacteria and make sure that any objects that are washed are safe to be used again in the kitchen.

7) Clean Food Preparation Areas on the Go

Cleaning on the go is a crucial component of food preparation since it guarantees that surfaces and equipment are cleaned at all times of the day and night in order to uphold the desired levels of cleanliness and hygienic practices. Additionally, it prevents the accumulation of debris and germs that may otherwise occur during a shift in the preparation areas.

8) The Two-Step Cleaning Procedure

Effective cleaning procedures often call for a two-step procedure: first, clean the surface to get rid of any food residue or dirt, then sanitise. Staff may reduce cleaning time by half by using Chlor-Clean because it can both clean and disinfect.

9) Changing Clothing and Footwear When Needed

Clothing and footwear that have been used outside can contaminate a clean food processing facility. Many food producers ensure that clothes worn by employees outside of the plant don’t come into touch with food or machinery. To guarantee that anything that comes into touch with food or surfaces in the commercial kitchen is sanitised. The employer may ask employees to change into different clean clothes, specially used by employees while working at the unit. The sample applies to footwear.

10) Preventing Cross-Contamination Through Clothing and Footwear Practices

Instead of giving employees shoes to wear within the facility, shoe coverings can be used to make their own shoes appropriate. Any dirt or germs from the soles of shoes are prevented from entering areas used for food preparation or serving by covering the whole shoe. Since there is no need to stoop or balance on one foot, shoe cover dispensers make it safe for employees to put the covers over their shoes.

11) Be Proactive About Addressing Cross-Contamination

Human mistake is the main source of cross-contamination. The majority of cross-contamination incidents and food poisoning hazards in the food business may be prevented if staff members are given the proper tools and adhere to protocols.

12) Staff Training

Staff working in food processing businesses need to be aware of the risks of cross-contamination and how to keep an eye out for pollutants and pathogens. Hence, training and awareness programs can help staff in becoming informed about the hazards and according perform their tasks while taking precautions to prevent food contamination.

13) Cleaning Products 

Cross-contamination is less likely when the proper cleaning supplies are used, including Chlor-Clean, an efficient disinfectant appropriate for use in kitchen areas.

14) Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

The correct personal protective equipment, such as shoe coverings, may also aid in maintaining the cleanliness of the areas used for food preparation and serving and significantly lower the danger of cross-contamination.

So, these were the guidelines given by our experienced food consultants to help food businesses prevent food contamination.

For customised solutions for your Company, feel free to call us at 1300 802 163 or e-mail – sales@anitechgroup.com.

For more industry insiders, stay tuned to the Anitech.


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