Food hazards are anything that can cause food to be unsafe.
Chemical food hazards are one of the three main categories of food hazards, the other two being biological and physical.
This article explains everything you need to know about chemical food hazards, including what they are and how they occur and spread.
What are chemical food hazards?
Appropriately named, chemical food hazards are any type of chemical such as a detergent or other cleaning agent or pest control product that can contaminate food.
Chemical food hazards may also be naturally occuring.
For example, a person who consumes a food or ingredient to which they are allergic can develop an allergic response.
Among the more than 100 known food allergens, there are nine that account for most food allergies.
The nine major food allergens include:
- fish, such as bass, flounder, or cod
- shellfish, such as crab, lobster, or shrimp
- tree nuts such as almonds, pecans, or walnuts
Another example of naturally occurring chemical food hazards include toxins produced by certain species of fish and shellfish as well as mushrooms.
Heavy metals like copper, lead, and mercury that leach into foods are other examples of chemical food hazards.
The signs and symptoms these hazards cause depends on the source but they can be serious or even deadly.
Chemical food hazards are any chemical agent that can contaminate food like cleaning agents or pest control products. They can also be naturally occurring as in the case of food allergens, toxins, and heavy metals.
How chemical food hazards occur and spread
There are several ways through which chemical food hazards occur and spread.
Cleaning agents can contaminate food if they are stored near food, used too close too food, or mistakenly used in food.
For this reason, you should always store cleaning agents away from food and make sure the bottle is properly labeled with what it contains.
The same is true for pest control products.
However, pest control applications such as insecticides and pesticides should ideally be stored offsite and only applied by a qualified professional.
In the case of food allergens, it’s important to avoid cross-contact when preparing an allergen-free order.
Cross-contact is similar to cross-contamination but occurs when a food allergen is transferred from one surface or food to another food.
You can avoid cross-contact by keeping allergen-free food and orders separate from other orders during both preparation and service.
Always wash and sanitize equipment and other food-contact surfaces as well as wash your hands before preparing an allergen-free order.
To prevent chemical food hazards from fish or mushroom toxins, always purchase them from an approved source and ensure shellfish are properly tagged and labeled.
Finally, to prevent chemical food hazards from heavy metals, do not store or cook high acid foods like tomato sauce in copper cookware.
And avoid serving pregnant women and young children fish that contain high levels of mercury, like shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish.
To avoid chemical food hazards, store and use cleaning agents safely, avoid cross-contact when preparing an allergen-free order, and always purchase shellfish and mushrooms from approved sources. Also, avoid serving pregnant women and young children fish with high levels of mercury.
Other types of food hazards
As with chemical food hazards, it’s important to be aware of the other types of food hazards and how to prevent them.
Biological food hazards
Biological food hazards relate to living disease-causing organisms called pathogens.
They include bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites.
Biological hazards — mainly bacteria and viruses — are responsible for the majority of foodborne illness cases and outbreaks.
One of the best ways to prevent biological food hazards is by practicing good personal hygiene and washing your hands when, how, and where you’re supposed to.
Other ways to prevent biological food hazards include:
- cook food to the proper internal temperature
- hold food at the proper temperatures
- cool foods safely
- label and store foods safely
- clean and sanitize utensils and cookware between uses
- avoid bare-hand contact with ready-to-eat food
- let your manager know when you’re sick
Physical food hazards
Physical food hazards are any foreign object that can contaminate food such as hair, bandages, jewelry, glass, or piece of cooking equipment.
Bones — while naturally occuring — are also a physical hazard.
These items can cut, choke, or otherwise physically injury someone.
Here are ways to prevent physical food hazards:
- keep fingernails trimmed, filed, and maintained
- wear a hair restraint, such as a hat or hair covering or net
- replace cooking ware or utensils that are worn, chipped, or cracked
- have a good pest control program
- wash produce to remove dirt
- cover bandages on your wrist, hand, or finger with a single-use glove
Like chemical food hazards, biological and physical food hazards can make people sick or injure them so it’s important to know how they occur and how you can prevent them.
The bottom line
A chemical food hazard is any chemical — whether foreign or naturally-occuring — that contaminates food and leads to a foodborne illness.
Understanding the various ways through which chemical food hazards occur and spread allows you to establish and take preventive actions.
Knowing how to prevent the spread and developing of biological and physical food hazards is also crucial for keeping your customers safe from foodborne illnesses.
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