Food is contaminated when something harmful or objectionable (for example a hair) gets into it making it unsafe or unpleasant to eat. The law says that if you handle food, you must make sure that it is not contaminated. In this section, we will look at the four types of contaminant and what you can do to control them.
Types of Contamination
Foreign objects (in other words objects that should not be found in food) are physical contaminants. Some of them are dangerous and some are just unpleasant but none of them should be found in food.
Examples of physical contaminants include:
Pests such as flies and Insects and their eggs and droppings
Personal items such as buttons, pens, hair, cigarettes, plasters and fingernails
Food packaging such as string, staples, glass, china
Animal parts such as feathers and shell fragments
Chemical contaminants can get into food while it is growing, being prepared or processed.
Examples of chemical contaminants include:
Pesticides and pest bait
Industrial processing chemicals
Microbial contaminants include microorganisms such as:
It is very important to control microbial contamination because it is the most important one to control because it is the most common cause of food poisoning.
Allergenic contamination occurs when food that causes an allergic reaction comes into contact with another food. For example, if the same knife used to cut normal bread is then used to cut gluten-free bread, or if pasta is stored in a tub that used to contain peanuts.
There are 14 named allergens (these are the foods that account for the majority of food allergies in people). they are:
Cereals containing gluten
Sulphur dioxide (sometimes known as sulphites)
Allergenic contamination is extremely serious as it can cause a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction called anaphylaxis