As global protein consumption rises and the protein ingredient market climbs towards $100 billion US dollars, food safety standards are in the spotlight.
We know that food contamination hazards come in many forms, from bone fragments to biological elements to chemical contaminants. Cross-contamination is also a risk throughout the food production value chain.
Many of the physical contaminants that pose a risk to consumer health (and a company’s reputation) are too small to see without specialized equipment. However, food producers can’t ignore these risks. So what’s the solution to safe, sustainable, contaminant-free food?
What are the common physical contaminants in food manufacturing?
Physical contamination, also known as foreign body contamination, occurs when a foreign object enters the food during the processing or production process. It can cause severe upset, discomfort, and even harm, ranging from broken teeth and choking to cuts and abrasions.
Foreign material in a product can have a devastating impact on a brand, now that social media gives everyone a platform for expression. So there’s a lot at stake.
In terms of physical contaminants, bone, metal, and glass usually come to mind first. These are the worst offenders, but there are more to look out for:
- Metal and metal shavings
- Bone fragments
- Pests and parasites
- Hair and fingernails
The added risks of physical food contaminants
Often the contaminants are hidden from view or too small to see with the naked eye. But that doesn’t make them any less risky.
When a physical contaminant reaches the consumer, the health risks are serious and varied. And in the age of social media, a negative consumer experience can be devastating for a company’s reputation, affecting profit margins, supplier relationships, and future product developments.
As if this weren’t enough, physical contaminants may also carry harmful biological contaminants, amplifying the risk of illness to the consumer.
This kind of cross-contamination involves contaminants such as harmful bacteria transferring from a surface, object, or person to a food product somewhere during the processing or production stage. Common cross-contamination sources include dirty clothing, improperly used utensils, and pests – a very similar list to the most common physical contaminants.
How many people fall ill from contaminated food every year?
Food contamination affects an estimated 600 million people globally each year. That’s nearly 1 in 10 people who suffer from contaminated food, costing more than $100 billion US dollars in medical expenses and lost productivity alone.