Is chemical contamination of food products during food processing possible?

The chemical contamination of food is a major concern for organisations involved in the manufacture, preparation and processing of food. While contamination can occur before food ingredients enter a food processing facility or commercial kitchen, maintaining a safe environment that will limit contamination at the facility or kitchen, remains a chief concern.

How does the chemical contamination of food occur?

Chemical Contamination from Food Processing

It is possible for dangerous chemicals to be formed when food undergoes chemical changes during processing. Examples of processing include fermentation, smoking, drying and high temperature cooking. The resulting chemical contaminants are extensive and can include acrylamide, benzene, chloropropanols, ethyl carbamate, furan, heterocyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, nitrosamines, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and semicarbazide.

Cleaning and Sanitizing Agents

The most obvious form of chemical contaminants lies in the cleaning and sanitizing materials and products used in food processing facilities and commercial kitchens. However chemicals can become dangerous in less common ways. For example, the carcinogen bromate forms in water when naturally occurring bromide reacts with ozone used for disinfection, while haloacetic acids form when chlorine disinfectants, such as bleach products, react with organic acids.

Naturally Occurring Chemicals and Toxins

Natural chemicals are produced by living organisms with the most common examples including mycotoxins that are produced by mold contamination of certain foods. These foods include cereals, nuts, fruit and dried fruit, cocoa, spices, oilseeds and milk. Other natural, but toxic chemicals include phycotoxins or the toxins that occur naturally in fish and seafood. Lastly, certain plants are able to produce compounds that are toxic to humans and these include glycoalkaloids and cyanide which is well known to be found in bitter apricot kernels. When foods are either stored or processed incorrectly, these toxic chemicals become a problem.

Tips to prevent the chemical contamination of food

Hygiene – or proper standards of cleanliness remain key to reducing the risk of chemical contamination of food, however there are numerous approaches to food safety that need to be applied to prevent the chemical contamination of food.

Correct use of Cleaning Materials

Staff should be provided with training and updates to ensure that they are familiar with the correct storage, handling and use of cleaning chemicals. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions, label cleaning materials clearly and store them separately from food.

Professional Deep Cleaning

Commercial deep cleaning at least once every six months by a professional cleaning, hygiene and sanitation company, will help to eliminate toxins and the build-up of food particles and fats that can result in the cross-contamination or chemical contamination of food. A commercial deep cleaning ensures that every corner of the kitchen is cleaned, from storage areas and cold rooms, to the walls, floors and ceilings.

Facility and Work Process Management

By using colour coded cooking utensils and cleaning equipment, it is much easier to correctly control food preparation and clean up. Staff should be trained on what colours pertain to which tasks. For example one colour would be used to clean pasteurized food contact surfaces, while another would be used to clean non-food contact surfaces. A third color should be used to clean surfaces with raw dairy products and a fourth colour would only be applied for floor drain cleaning.

Correct Cooking and Food Preparation Methods

In addition to ongoing staff training on food preparation and cooking methods, food quality standards must be monitored at all times to ensure foods are prepared correctly. This prevents  incorrect processing and the relating chemical changes that could result in toxic chemicals causing food contamination.

Need help? Arrange a consultation with our experts.

Safeguard your food processing facility or commercial kitchen today by implementing more stringent food preparation and hygiene controls. Our team has the experience to help you identify and manage the areas of risk that you face. To arrange a consultation with one of our food safety and commercial hygiene experts, ring us on 087 803 022 or send us a message today.

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