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Food contaminant

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Food contamination refers to the presence of harmful chemicals and microorganisms in food, which can cause consumer illness. This article addresses the chemical contamination of foods, as opposed to microbiological contamination, which can be found under foodborne illness.

The impact of chemical contaminants on consumer health and well-being is often apparent only after many years of processing and prolonged exposure at low levels (e.g., cancer). Unlike food-borne pathogens, chemical contaminants present in foods are often unaffected by thermal processing. Chemical contaminants can be classified according to the source of contamination and the mechanism by which they enter the food product.


Agrochemicals are chemicals used in agricultural practices and animal husbandry with the intent to increase crop yields. Such agents include pesticides (e.g., insecticides, herbicides, rodenticides), plant growth regulators, veterinary drugs (e.g., nitrofuran, fluoroquinolones, malachite green, chloramphenicol), and bovine somatotropin (rBST).

Environmental contaminants

Environmental contaminants are chemicals that are present in the environment in which the food is grown, harvested, transported, stored, packaged, processed, and consumed. The physical contact of the food with its environment results in its contamination. Possible sources of contamination and contaminants common to that vector include:

Air: radionuclides (caesium-137, strontium-90), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH)
Water: arsenic, mercury
Soil: cadmium, nitrates, perchlorates
Packaging materials: antimony, tin, lead, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), semicarbazide, benzophenone, isopropylthioxanthone (ITX), bisphenol A
Processing/cooking equipment: copper or other metal chips, lubricants, cleaning and sanitizing agents
Naturally occurring toxins: mycotoxins, phytohemagglutinin, pyrrolizidine alkaloids, grayanotoxin, scombrotoxin (histamine), ciguatera, shellfish toxins (see shellfish poisoning), tetrodotoxin, among many others.

Pesticides and carcinogens

There are many cases of banned pesticides or carcinogens found in foods.

Greenpeace exposed in 2006 that 25% of surveyed supermarkets in China stocked agricultural products contaminated with banned pesticides. Over 70% of tomatoes that tested were found to have the banned pesticide Lindane, and almost 40% of the samples had a mix of three or more types of pesticides. Tangerine, strawberry, and Kyofung grape samples were also found contaminated by banned pesticides, including the highly toxic methamidophos.[1] Greenpeace says there exists no comprehensive monitoring on fruit produce in the Hong Kong as of 2006.
In India, soft drinks were found contaminated with high levels of pesticides and insecticides, including lindane, DDT, malathion and chlorpyrifos.[2]
Formaldehyde, a carcinogen, was frequently found in the common Vietnamese dish, Pho, resulting in the 2007 Vietnam food scare. “Health agencies have known that Vietnamese soy sauce, the country’s second most popular sauce after fish sauce, has been chock full of cancer agents since at least 2001”, reported the Thanh Nien daily. “Why didn’t anyone tell us?”[3] The carcinogen in Asian sauces is 3-MCPD and its metabolite 1,3-DCP, which has been an ongoing problem affecting multiple continents. Vietnamese vegetables and fruits were also found to have banned pesticides.
The 2005 Indonesia food scare, where carcinogenic formaldehyde was found to be added as a preservative to noodles, tofu, salted fish, and meatballs.
In 2008 Chinese milk scandal, melamine was discovered to have been added to milk and infant formula which caused 54,000 babies to be sent to the hospital. Six babies died because of kidney stones related to the contaminant.[4]

Hair in food

There is a heavy stigma attached to the presence of hair in food in most societies. There is a risk that it may induce choking and vomiting, and also that it may be contaminated by toxic substances.[5] Views differ as to the level of risk it poses to the inadvertent consumer.[6][7][8]

In most countries, people working in the food industry are required to cover their hair because it will contaminate the food.[9][10] When people are served food which contains hair in restaurants or cafés, it is usual for them to complain to the staff.[11]

There are a range of possible reasons for the objection to hair in food, ranging from cultural taboos to the simple fact that it is difficult to digest and unpleasant to eat. It may also be interpreted as a sign of more widespread problems with hygiene. The introduction of complete-capture hairnets is believed to have resulted in a decrease in incidents of contamination of this type.[12]

Sometimes protein from human hair is used as a food ingredient,[13] in bread and other such similar products. Such use of human hair in food is forbidden in Islam.[14] Historically, in Judaism, finding hair in food was a sign of bad luck.[15]

Processing contaminants

Processing contaminants are generated during the processing of foods (e.g., heating, fermentation). They are absent in the raw materials, and are formed by chemical reactions between natural and/or added food constituents during processing. The presence of these contaminants in processed foods cannot be entirely avoided. Technological processes can be adjusted and/or optimized, however, in order to reduce the levels of formation of processing contaminants. Examples are: nitrosamines, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), heterocyclic amines, histamine, acrylamide, furan, benzene, trans fat, 3-MCPD, semicarbazide, 4-hydroxynonenal (4-HNE), and ethyl carbamate. There is also the possibility of metal chips from the processing equipment contaminating food. These can be identified using metal detection equipment. In many conveyor lines, the line will be stopped, or when weighing the product with a Check weigher, the item can be rejected for being over- or underweight or because small pieces of metal are detected within it.

Emerging food contaminants

While many food contaminants have been known for decades, the formation and presence of certain chemicals in foods has been discovered relatively recently. These are the so-called emerging food contaminants like acrylamide, furan, benzene, perchlorate, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), 3-monochloropropane-1,3-diol (3-MCPD), 4-hydroxynonenal, and (4-HNE).

Safety and regulation

Acceptable daily intake (ADI) levels and tolerable concentrations of contaminants in individual foods are determined on the basis of the “No Observed Adverse Effect Level” (NOAEL) in animal experiments, by using a safety factor (usually 100). The maximum concentrations of contaminants allowed by legislation are often well below toxicological tolerance levels, because such levels can often be reasonably achieved by using good agricultural and manufacturing practices.

Regulatory officials, in order to combat the dangers associated with foodborne viruses, are pursuing various possible measures.

The EFSA published a report in 2011 on “scientific opinion regarding an update of the present knowledge on the occurrence and control of foodborne viruses”.
This year, an expert working group created by the European Committee for Standardization (CEN), is expected to publish a standard method for the detection of norovirus and hepatitis A virus in food.
The CODEX Committee on Food Hygiene (CCFH) is also working on a guideline which is now ready for final adoption.
European Commission Regulation (EC) No 2073/2005 of 15 November 2005 indicates that “foodstuffs should not contain micro-organisms or their toxins or metabolites in quantities that present an unacceptable risk for human health”, underlining that methods are required for foodborne virus detection.[16]

Food contaminant testing

To maintain the high quality of food and comply with health, safety, and environmental regulatory standards, it is best to rely on food contaminant testing through an independent third party, such as laboratories or certification companies. For manufacturers, the testing for food contaminants can minimize the risk of noncompliance in relation to raw ingredients, semi-manufactured foods, and final products. Also, food contaminant testing assures consumers safety and quality of purchased food products and can prevent foodborne diseases, and chemical, microbiological, or physical food hazards.[17]

The establishment of ADIs for certain emerging food contaminants is currently an active area of research and regulatory debate.

See also

Bad Bug Book from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration
The Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee Report on Food Additives


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^ TribhuMRatta (Nov 5, 2008). “Ban the Colas!”. MeriNews. Archived from the original on March 8, 2009. Retrieved November 22, 2008.

^ “Toxic soy sauce, chemical veggies — food scares hit Vietnam”. AFP. Hanoi. Sep 11, 2007. Archived from the original on 2010-01-19.

^ McDonald, Scott (2008-09-22). “Chinese top food safety official resign”. NBCNEWS. Retrieved 7 March 2018.

^ Valdes Biles P.; Ziobro G. C. (August 2000). “Regulatory Action Criteria for Filth and Other Extraneous Materials IV. Visual Detection of Hair in Food”. Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology. Academic Press. 32 (1): 73–77. doi:10.1006/rtph.2000.1403. ISSN 0273-2300. PMID 11029271.

^ “Food Quality issue 08 09 2005”. Archived from the original on 2007-10-20. Retrieved 2007-07-22.

^ “Kitsap County Health” (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2006-03-20.

^ Lucey, John (June 1, 2006). “Personal Hygiene and Food Safety Tips : Management Should Serve as Role Models for Good Work Habits and Acceptable Hygienic Practices”. Food Quality. Archived from the original on 2007-07-14.

^ “Ohio Department of Agriculture”.

^ “CCFRA newsletter”. Archived from the original on 2007-09-27.

^ “Looking under the tables”. The Gazette. September 20, 2006.

^ “” (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2006-08-23.

^ Justin Rowlatt (10 Jan 2007). “Does your daily bread contain human hair?”. BBC News.

^ Amir Khan (1996). “Halaal/Haraam Food Awareness”. Archived from the original on October 22, 2009.

^ Howard Schwartz (1991). Lilith’s Cave: Jewish Tales of the Supernatural. ISBN 0-19-506726-6.

^ Commission Regulation (EC) No 2073/2005, Official Journal of the European Union, 15 November 2005, Retrieved 7 April 2015

^ Study finds novel method to test food for contamination

External links

Office of Food Additive Safety at the US Food and Drug Administration’s website
Chemical Risks in Food from the World Health Organization
Briefing on GM Food Contamination
Pesticides and Chemical Contaminants from the US Food and Drug Administration’s websitevteConsumer food safetyAdulterants, food contaminants
Antibiotic use in livestock
HGH controversies
Lead poisoning
Mercury in fish
Sudan IFlavorings
Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
High-fructose corn syrupIntestinal parasites and parasitic disease
Campylobacter jejuni
Clostridium perfringens
Escherichia coli O104:H4
Escherichia coli O157:H7
Hepatitis A
Hepatitis E
Vibrio choleraePesticides
Benzoic acid
Ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA)
Sodium benzoateSugar substitutes
Acesulfame potassium
Sodium cyclamate
SucraloseToxins, poisons, environment pollution
Arsenic contamination of groundwater
Benzene in soft drinks
Bisphenol A
Shellfish poisoningFood contamination incidents
Devon colic
Swill milk scandal
Esing Bakery incident
1858 Bradford sweets poisoning
1900 English beer poisoning
Morinaga Milk arsenic poisoning incident
Minamata disease
1971 Iraq poison grain disaster
Toxic oil syndrome
1985 diethylene glycol wine scandal
UK mad cow disease outbreak
1993 Jack in the Box E. coli outbreak
1996 Odwalla E. coli outbreak
2006 North American E. coli outbreaks
ICA meat repackaging controversy
2008 Canada listeriosis outbreak
2008 Chinese milk scandal
2008 Irish pork crisis
2008 United States salmonellosis outbreak
2011 Germany E. coli outbreak
2011 United States listeriosis outbreak
2013 Bihar school meal poisoning
2013 horse meat scandal
2015 Mozambique beer poisoning
2017 Brazil weak meat scandal
2017–18 South African listeriosis outbreak
2018 Australian rockmelon listeriosis outbreak
2018 Australian strawberry contamination
Food safety incidents in China
Food safety incidents in Taiwan
Food safety in Australia
Foodborne illness
death toll
United StatesRegulation, standards, watchdogs
Acceptable daily intake
E number
Food labeling regulations
Food libel laws
International Food Safety Network
ISO 22000
Nutrition facts label
Organic certification
The Non-GMO Project
Quality Assurance International
Food Standards AgencyInstitutions
Institute for Food Safety and Health
European Food Safety Authority
Food and Drug Administration
International Food Safety Network
Spanish Agency for Food Safety and Nutrition
Food Information and Control Agency (Spain)
Centre for Food Safety (Hong Kong)
Ministry of Food and Drug Safety (South Korea)
Authority control
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Microbial Contaminants & Contamination Routes in Food Industry

Microbial Contaminants & Contamination Routes in Food Industry – Vtt symposium 248 microbial contaminants & contamination routes in food industry. process line in the food processing and packaging industry is important for. Because many microbes from. faeces are pathogenic in animals and humans, the presence of the…For many people lunch is a quick meal In cities there are a lot of sandwich bars, where office workers can choose the kind of bread they want – brown, white, or a roll -and then all sorts of salad and meat or fish to go in the sandwich. Pubs often serve good, cheap food, both hot and cold.Water in many developing countries is contaminated with toxic chemicals, also known as toxins. Approximately 80% of infectious diseases in the world are caused by contaminated water. Pollutants such as metals and pesticides seep into the earth's soil and contaminate the food supply.

Names of meals are used without articles – It is perhaps the most essential of all farm machinery. Farm tractors are used to carry out different agricultural tasks Tractor service in the agriculture industry has increased dramatically over the past century thanks to their legendary Oil analysis is a means of monitoring wear and oil contamination.The most common contaminants of foods are what are known as "heavy metals" which include mainly mercury, lead, and cadmium. Food contamination from bacteria and improper food handling causes 76 million people in the U.S. every year to become sick from food poisoning.Food processing has been used for centuries in order to preserve foods, or simply to make foods edible. This article explains the benefits of processed Some foods are even dangerous if eaten without proper processing. The most basic definition of food processing is "a variety of operations by…

Names of meals are used without articles

Reading Exercise – Pollution | EnglishClub | contaminated adj. – But Melanie was not most children. The rodeo is a spectacular sight. If a _ has a place in the first row of the arena, he or she may even be sprinkled with sand by the passing horses.Language Focus:• a/an – some/any• (how) much/(how) many – a lot of• the -ing form the – zero article• can • must/mustn't.In many countries, the food processing industry is a major contributor to the health of the national economy. In the same way too, the sector is impacted by both the local economy where it manufactures as well as by the global economy in terms of food logistics and imports and exports.

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