Biological hazards in food | See an example of a biological hazard
Biological hazards refer to living organisms that can contaminate food and cause negative health effects on consumers. E.g., viruses, bacteria,...
Contamination of food items by other living organisms is known as biological contamination. Foodborne illnesses arise ...
Food is the main source of energy and nutrition for human beings. Despite this, humans are not the only organisms that benefit from all kinds of foods. Similar to how people use food and convert it into energy, microorganisms do so. They break down complex food structures into simpler components and use these for reproduction and biological functions.
Although microorganisms can be readily found in nature decomposing organic matter, they can quickly work their way into the food industry. When microorganisms are unintentionally present in food, they are considered biological contamination. This type of contamination is responsible for most reported foodborne illness cases globally.
Of the approximately 600 million cases of foodborne illnesses all over the world, a majority of this portion is caused by biological contamination. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that there are at least 250 identified foodborne illnesses known to the food industry; the majority of these illnesses are attributed to biological contamination.
Every year, restaurants and other food chains are subject to public scrutiny because of the attention it gets from foodborne illness cases. This is because almost half of the reported cases of foodborne illnesses in the US are related to eating cooked foods from restaurants and deli stores. As a food business owner, you are responsible for training your team in food safety and orienting them with these potential biological contaminations for the protection of public health.
To help you control biological contamination in your food business, read this full and detailed article.
Biological contamination refers to the event wherein any other living organism, mostly microorganisms, contaminate a food product. Additionally, the term biological contamination expands to the context of contamination caused by the organic compounds or by-products of these microorganisms. The foodborne illness-causing microorganisms are collectively known as pathogens.
Even though some microorganisms such as beneficial bacteria can be used to enhance the characteristics and shelf-life of foods, pathogens can cause life-threatening effects. The premise of biological contamination refers to the unwanted presence of these microorganisms.
Once pathogens contaminate food and grow to unsafe levels, they can cause foodborne illnesses that may have mild to life-threatening effects. Depending on the type and initial load of the biological contamination, the consequences can be very serious.
For example, cases involving biological contamination of botulin, which is the toxin produced by Clostridium botulinum, can warrant a foodborne illness outbreak warning with just 1 or 2 cases. The effects of some biological contamination can mean life or death, especially for individuals with weak immune systems.
Biological contamination in food generally refers to the unwanted presence of disease-causing microorganisms. We consider them unwanted as pathogenic microorganisms can cause a wide range of illnesses and spoil food, leading to food waste. Some biological contamination can produce observable spoilage characteristics.
A biologically contaminated food may show signs such as the production of foul smell, discoloration, loss of structural integrity of food, visible presence of a pathogen or bacterial communities, and drastic change in flavor. Despite this fact, some types of biological contamination can go undetected, such as when a bacterial toxin or virus causes the contamination.
In the food industry, the main types of biological contamination are caused by the following:
In the food industry, there are other types of biological contamination. Most contaminations under this category are transmitted through fecal routes and contaminated water systems. This is why having a clean water supply and regular monitoring of this route is important. In addition, proper monitoring and control features must always be in place for proper detection and prevention.
Most, if not all, biological contaminations are sensitive to environmental factors such as extreme temperatures. That is why cooking and storage are very important food safety operations for any food business. Cooked foods and properly stored ingredients significantly reduce the potential risk of foodborne illness to human health. To help you control these operations consistently, use our digital solutions at FoodDocs.
With our digital Food Safety Management System, you can get automatically generated monitoring logs for cooking, cooling, and cold storage in just an average of 15 minutes. In addition, our system can also help you remind food handlers of when to perform the monitoring tasks by sending them intuitive notifications. Time is always an important factor in controlling biological contamination. When left uncontrolled, the growth of bacteria can double in just 20 minutes. As such, constant and consistent monitoring are crucial.
Bacterial contamination may be caused by pathogens such as Salmonella, Listeria, and E.coli. These examples are just some of the most well-known foodborne bacteria that cause food poisoning around the world. Food bacteria commonly contaminate foods through the water system and with poor food handling practices.
Biological food contamination may be caused by the previously mentioned pathogens. The severity and range of their effects depend on their type, initial load, and human health. Any food can be affected by biological contamination. Merely forgetting to properly wash your hands can contaminate the foods being prepared.
The biological contamination by Norovirus has been estimated to cause approximately 685 million cases worldwide, of which 200 million affect children under 5. It is part of the Big 6 foodborne illness-causing pathogens.
Norovirus biological contamination is commonly spread through contaminated cooked food and water. In addition, as per its characteristic of being a virus, it can also be spread from human to human. It can cause symptoms such as excessive vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, fever, and muscle pain.
As you could deduce, Norovirus is the most common cause of gastric outbreaks worldwide. In fact, the World Health Organization Foodborne Disease Burden Epidemiology Reference Group (WHO FERG) ranked norovirus as the top cause of foodborne illness, the fourth main cause of foodborne deaths, and 5th main cause of disability-adjusted life years.
Biological contaminants are very common in the food industry. Some are even a natural part of the raw foods and would only become a contaminant if the process is unable to remove them. Of the 250 known causes of biological contaminations and in addition to Norovirus, the following are ranked to cause the most numbers of foodborne illnesses every year:
The mentioned examples in this section are only representative of some of the most widely known biological contaminations and relevant organisms. There are other examples that can potentially contaminate your food production. Some biological contaminations are more likely to occur in your operations depending on the type of food products you are producing.
Food handlers must always be aware of which major challenges from biological contaminations must be addressed and how to control them. Handling any high-risk food in your food business means a high level of food safety standards is a must.
Most types of biological contamination are caused by mesophilic organisms or those that prefer room temperature. This fact is why any high-risk food must always be stored at the right temperature and away from the temperature danger zone.
Four main sources of biological contamination include soil and water, cross-contamination, raw materials, and pests. Any type of biological contamination can be introduced at any point in the food processing system. Some pathogens have a natural affinity toward a particular food. Depending on your food products, you may need to assess and tailor control procedures for particular biological contamination. You can then use the identified type of contamination in setting critical limits for your food safety operations.
One major factor in controlling biological contamination is identifying its potential sources. Here are 4 major sources from which some of the major biological contamination may come:
Understanding the sources of biological contamination allows your food safety team to create a more efficient monitoring system by focusing on the correct aspects of your food business. It also allows you to note which parameters must be measured, the critical limits, and how to verify appropriate control.
To help you get all of these monitoring procedures and forms set up in just an average of 15 minutes, just start using our digital Food Safety Management System at FoodDocs. Using artificial intelligence, our system can automatically create the most significant digital monitoring forms based on your food safety operations. All you have to do is to answer a few basic questions to describe your food business.
Biological contamination carries the risk of causing foodborne illness outbreaks. When contaminated food is consumed, customers may become ill and suffer different symptoms depending on the involved biological contaminant. In more severe cases, biological contamination can even cause death. Every year, at least 3,000 consumers die in the US, whereas 420,000 deaths occur worldwide due to foodborne illnesses.
Biological contamination can significantly affect the community. When affected by foodborne illness, the members of the community become unable to connect and perform their daily tasks. As such, the economy suffers as well. Hospitalization and medical care uncontrollably grow in demand when biological contamination occurs and attention to other medical cases becomes divided.
Biological contamination may show different symptoms depending on the involved pathogen, the load of contamination, and even human health. Individuals who are considered to be under the high-risk group are more likely to suffer more severe symptoms when compared with health consumers. Children under the age of 5, pregnant women, the elderly, and those with immune deficiency problems may suffer greater.
Some of the most common symptoms caused by biological contamination may include the following:
In more serious cases, regular diarrhea can become bloody or very watery. When blood is involved, even with vomiting, the affected consumer must immediately seek medical attention. The onset of symptoms usually shows signs from 6 to 24 hours after consuming contaminated foods. A mild foodborne illness usually takes 1 to 2 days to subside and needs constant rehydration to help the body fight the infection.
The hard part about biological contamination is that you cannot see them until they produce significant changes in the food products. With the exception of molds, most pathogens are not visible to the naked eye. That is why detection methods using test kits and more advanced machines are used in larger food businesses.
Here are some basic and more advanced procedures used to detect biological contamination:
There is currently a wide range of efficient detection methods in the industry. The type of detection methods used in a food establishment may vary depending on the urgency of the results as well as their specificity. Some tests only require a yes or no answer, whereas some need more detailed information. In general, the important bit for every food business is to know which biological contamination is most likely to contaminate their materials and put any consumer in danger. The efficiency of a detection method is very useful for making decisions such as in food recalls.
Food safety teams are responsible for detecting and identifying biological hazards in their production process. Biological hazard identification is a critical component of developing a food safety plan. At FoodDocs, we have created a smart, free CCP tool to help your team identify the appropriate level of action for biological hazards in your food operations.
As the focus of the US food safety industry promotes, prevention of foodborne illnesses by focusing on the source is more effective. This approach significantly reduces the occurrences of foodborne illnesses as well as food waste. To do this, every food safety team must be aware of how to properly avoid any type of contamination. At FoodDocs, we have created a digital solution that will help every food business maintain food safety compliance.
In this section, we have highlighted some of the most important ways how you can avoid biological contamination and how our digital solution at FoodDocs can help you.
FoodDocs Temperature Log
What is even more efficient with our digital solution is that our system features a smart notification system. This feature automatically alerts food handlers whenever a task needs to be done so that no food safety operation is forgotten.You can customize the frequency of these alerts to fit your specific food safety routines.
Food safety compliance can even become more efficient through our auto-fill system. All mentioned monitoring logs feature a system that prefills the logs based on your previous data entries. This can save your team's time and would only require verification. Find out more about this digital solution below.
In addition to the mentioned food safety tasks above, there are other operations required to maintain food safety in a food establishment's day-to-day operation. Every task is important to keep your customers safe while serving quality food. Using our digital Food Safety Management System, you can monitor all food safety tasks in the palm of your hand.
Using artificial intelligence our system will use the information you have provided to create a tailored digital FSMS for you. What is even more impressive is that you can further customize every monitoring form to fit your specific operations. In addition, you can convert your paper-based monitoring logs into our digital platform such as for water supply monitoring. Create a digital checklist where you can also attach the official results of your partner testing laboratories as supporting documents.
FoodDocs Water Testing Log
In addition to automatically generated monitoring logs, our digital FSMS can provide you with the following features:
Our team of food safety and technology experts knows how hard it may be to maintain food safety compliance on a daily basis. That is why we have come up with this digital solution to help every food business make compliance an easy task.
You can try our extensive features yourself when you avail of our free, 14-day trial. Experience how our digital FSMS can help you in maintaining food safety compliance effortlessly and join our family of more than 20,000 customers worldwide.
Biological hazards refer to living organisms that can contaminate food and cause negative health effects on consumers. E.g., viruses, bacteria,...
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