Food hazards are increasingly worrying. Although awareness of the possible hazards continues to grow, there is still a lot of information that most people are not familiar with yet. Many people, for example, are not aware that uncovered lightbulbs can expose your food to chemical hazards.
Being aware of potential food hazards empowers us to prevent the consumption of tainted food supplies by unsuspecting eaters. Food hazards should be reduced not only in restaurants, hotels, school cafeterias, bars and any other establishments where food may be served but also in the home. The number of potential foodborne illnesses is astonishing because tainted food can act as vessels to countless viruses, bacteria, and parasites into the human body. The only way to avoid this is by not consuming contaminated foods. But viruses, bacteria, and parasites are not the only contaminants that may be ingested accidentally. There are also many physical and chemical hazards that could spread foodborne illnesses.
The two major culprits for physical and chemical hazards are tiny shreds of glass or cleaning products. This is why the alarm has been rung about the Tide Pod challenge, for example.
How Many Causes Of Food Safety Hazards Are There?
The first thing to understand about food safety hazard is the different categories in which this can be divided. They are the following:
- Biological hazards.
- Chemical hazards.
- Physical hazards.
Being aware of these possible food safety hazard is just the first step in preventing or, at least, reducing or eliminating them. Once you have identified the possible hazards, the next steps are setting control points, determining limits, setting up procedures to monitor food making and serving, identifying any actions that would correct the situation, creating procedures to verify those actions and to keep records or any documentation that is needed.
Perhaps more than any other, the food industry is very sensitive to consumer demand. – Michael Pollan.
What Are the Biological Food Safety Hazards?
Believe it or not, the biggest biological hazard is not bacteria but viruses. Norovirus, in particular, is responsible for causing most salmonella cases. There is also a large number of hospitalizations that are caused by virus-related foodborne biological hazards.
Not everyone who ingests food that has been contaminated by a biological hazard created by a virus requires hospitalization. Many of them experience but slight symptoms and they may not even see a doctor let alone be admitted to hospital. But there is still an important number of people who will go to the ER with more serious symptoms caused by this.
Bacteria, however, should not be underestimated as a biological hazard. The main thing to understand about bacteria is the rate at which they grow and reproduce. Their numbers normally double anything like every 20 minutes. This means that if food is exposed to bacteria for a few hours (normally, 4 hours or more), the number of bacteria would have grown to make the contaminated food so harmful as if to make people would eat it sick.
Bacteria are more likely to be found in foods that either has a neutral pH or that are mildly acidic. Two other factors that favor the thriving and growth of bacteria are moisture and high temperatures. You need to watch out for temperatures ranging between 41 °F (5 °C) and 135 °F (57 °C).
The best way to reducing the risk of bacterial contamination is by cooking food thoroughly. In most cases, just cooking kills bacteria. But it is important to ensure that the food is exposed to the right temperature for the right length of time that would enable the cooking process to kill all bacteria.
Parasites are a lot less common as food contaminant than viruses or bacteria. But it does happen when food or water has been contaminated by human or animal feces. There are also many other kinds of biological hazards.
What Are the Chemical Food Safely Hazards?
Having said all that, uncovered lightbulbs could not cause biological food safety hazards but they can cause chemical hazards.
There can be many different chemical food safety hazards, for example:
- Cleaning solutions.
- Dishwashing liquid.
- Cleaning solutions.
The main way to prevent this kind of chemical hazards is to ensure that all glasses, plates, pots, pans, cutlery, etc. used in the preparation and serving of food is not just thoroughly cleaned but also rinsed carefully.
- Any chemicals should always be properly labeled and stored safely. This applies to all kitchens big and small, professional or otherwise.
- Stainless steel should also be the preferred material for cooking utensils over copper.
- Exposed lightbulbs can cause chemical food safety hazards is cleaning products used on them do somehow contaminate food that is located directly under them or in their proximity.
But that major hazard that exposed lightbulbs can cause is, actually, physical and not chemical.
Small pieces of glass or metal are the most important physical hazards that may contaminate food. One of the reasons that they are so pervasive is that most people do not think about it. Also, more often than not the pieces are so small that they may be undetectable to the naked eye.
The best way to prevent this is to always use glass that is shatterproof when preparing food. But, what about lightbulbs? In most cooking situations lightbulbs would be one way or the other. Lightbulbs in a kitchen or other areas where food is cooked or prepared should be covered with a mesh shield. This is the only way to prevent lightbulbs from contaminated food. If food is suspected to have become contaminated by pieces of shattered glass (or metal or plastic) it should be immediately thrown away before anybody has the chance to eat it.
The risk of chemical contamination happens when a piece of glass is ingested, and it punctures your intestinal wall. This, in turn, could allow bacteria to enter your bloodstream, which could have serious and even fatal effects. Even the smallest piece of glass could cause this.