Hazard: a biological, chemical or physical agent that is reasonably likely to cause illness or injury in the absence of its control.
Hazards are categorized into three classes: biological, chemical and physical.
- Biological hazards include harmful bacteria, viruses or parasites (e.g., Salmonella, hepatitis A and Trichinella).
- Chemical hazards include compounds that can cause illness or injury due to immediate or long-term exposure.
- Physical hazards include foreign objects in food that can cause harm when eaten, such as glass or metal fragments.
Hazards only refer to the conditions or contaminants in food that can cause illness or injury to people.
Many conditions are highly undesirable in food, such as the presence of insects, hair, filth or spoilage. Economic fraud and violations of regulatory food standards are equally undesirable.
All of these defects must be controlled in food processing. However, they often are not directly related to the safety of the product.
Foods can contain biological hazards. These hazards can come from raw materials or from food-processing steps used to make the final product. Biological hazards includes microorganisms (bacteria, virus, fungi etc.) as well as parasites (worms and protozoa).
Chemical contamination can happen at any stage in food production and processing. Chemicals can be helpful and are purposefully used with some foods, such as pesticides on fruits and vegetables. Chemicals are not hazardous if properly used or controlled. The presence of a chemical may not always represent a hazard.
- Potential risks to consumers increase when chemicals are not controlled or the recommended treatment rates are exceeded.
- The amount of the chemical may determine whether it is a hazard or not. Some may require exposure over prolonged periods to have a toxic effect.
- Regulatory limits are set for some of those contaminants.
Physical hazards include any potentially harmful extraneous matter not normally found in food. The following are examples of materials that may be physical hazards:
Glass: Cuts, bleeding; may require surgery to find or remove.
Metal: Cuts, broken teeth; may require surgery to remove.
- When a consumer mistakenly eats the foreign material or object, it is likely to cause choking, injury or other adverse health effects.
- Physical hazards are the most commonly reported consumer complaints because the injury occurs immediately or soon after eating, and the source of the hazard is often easy to identify.
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