Risk of contamination in food handling

Risk of contamination in food handling

In the food industry, it is necessary to have rules and regulations that ensure the quality of food at all stages of its production chain. The risk of contamination of the products and their containers may be greater or less depending on compliance with these standards and the good practices of the handlers. 

Do you know we expose what kind of risks food to on its way to the consumer?

Sources of food contamination

The definition of a food handler according to HACCP is any person who directly handles packaged or unpackaged food, equipment, and utensils used for food or food contact surfaces and who is therefore expected to meet the requirements of food hygiene. 

Related to food handling, the main sources of food contamination identified over time are:

  1. Elements of the environment (contaminated or non-potable water, earth, dust; air, which can transport pathogenic microorganisms to food, among others).

  2. Contaminated utensils and equipment that do not have the level of hygiene required in the food industry. 

  3. Miscellaneous waste can accumulate dangerous microorganisms.

  4. Pests (flies, mosquitoes, flies, rats, termites, among others). We can install these in production plants, restaurants, or other types of infrastructure where food products are handled.

  5. Other contaminated foods. Here, it is called “cross-contamination”, which occurs when the contaminant is transmitted from one food to another.

  6. The personnel in charge of handling food can transfer contaminants mainly through their hands and clothing due to poor because of poor hygiene or bad practices (eg, wiping the sweat from the forehead with the back of the hand and not washing it before coming into contact with food)


When a food handler is sick, it is best to suspend their work until they receive treatment and fully recover. Illnesses transmitted from a person to a food can be dangerous. Currently, with the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus pandemic, measures have been tightened in all industries and infected people must be isolated immediately.

What are the causes that generate risks of food contamination?

We have already established 6 of the main sources of food contamination, but what are the causes that originate these sources? Where does the risk of contamination to the products come from?

We present the most recurring throughout time up to the present:

  • Bad personal hygiene habits of handlers.

  • Not having efficient professional industrial cleaning and disinfection protocols within the infrastructure, can result in the accumulation of waste and the contamination of equipment, machinery, utensils, and products.

  • Cross-contamination can occur in three ways:

    • From a contaminated surface to food.

    • From contaminated food to other food.

    • From contaminated food to a clean surface.

  • Not managing the cooking or cooling times of the food correctly, causes them to deteriorate.

  • Not managing the temperature of food correctly, for example, not storing food at the required temperature, results in a deterioration of the product.

  • Use of contaminated raw materials.

To avoid the risk of receiving raw materials that may carry contaminants, we recommend that you always buy from approved suppliers. Also, check the products once you receive them to verify that their condition is adequate.

The 3 main risks in food handling


The contaminants that can threaten and put food and its packaging at risk from its production to the service to the consumer can be classified into three types for which we must establish effective prevention measures at all times. Below, learn more about them and some examples of each one:

Biological contaminants

In this type of contamination, the threat comes from sources of biological hazards (pathogens) that can be:

  • Virus. 

  • Bacteria

  • Parasites.

Physical contaminants

Physical contaminants are foreign elements that accidentally reach food. These may be visible depending on their size. Some examples of them are:

  • Hair.

  • Bones.

  • Glasses and crystals.

  • Thorns.

  • Plastics.

  • Shells.

  • Personal items (earrings, pendants).

These objects can be the most unusual, as has been shown by cases that have made it to the world news, and can cause great harm to the consumer with their ingestion, since they can cause, besides illnesses, suffocation, internal cuts, and other serious health problems.

Chemical contaminants

Finally, we have chemical contaminants, which can be deposited in food accidentally or through handling under poor hygiene practices or others already mentioned. 

These types of contaminants are chemicals such as:

  • Detergents and disinfectants.

  • Pesticides. 

  • Assorted professional cleaning products. 

  • Insecticides or pesticides.

Which can represent a great risk for the consumer if ingested, leading to serious health consequences such as poisoning.

Our advice…

To avoid all kinds of risks when handling food and keep them to a minimum in order to protect the safety and quality of the products, we advise you:

  • Have constant and efficient cleaning and disinfection protocols.

  • Buy raw materials from authorized suppliers.

  • Ensure that staff complies with personal hygiene requirements.


Processing food implies a risk for the food if this process is not done safely.


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