Types of Food Hazards and How to Prevent Them

Types of Food Hazards and How to Prevent Them

Cross-contamination is a major food safety risk. Without safe food handling practices, storage procedures, personal hygiene, and cleaning, contaminants can get into the food you serve, causing foodborne illnesses or allergic reactions.

But what causes food contamination?

Learn more about what hazards can come into contact with food and cause it to become contaminated, and what are the best practices for preventing contamination.

Pathogenic Bacterial Contamination (aka Cross-Contamination)

When most people are talking about cross-contamination, they are talking about spreading pathogenic bacteria onto food that could make someone sick.

Best Practices

Be sure to clean and sanitize all equipment, utensils, and surfaces between tasks and after prepping raw food. Also, raw food separately from ready-to-eat products.

Chemical Contamination

Chemical contamination can occur if raw food are contaminated with chemicals. Contamination can also occur if cleaning chemicals are misused, not rinsed off properly, or used in the wrong concentration.


  • Rust from an opened metal tin in the refrigerator
  • Cleaning product coming into contact with food

Best Practice

All chemicals should be stored in a separate cupboard away from the food area. Never transfer chemicals to other non-marked containers. Another best practice it to follow the manufacturers instructions for using each chemical.

Physical Contamination

Physical contamination occurs when a foreign object falls onto or into food. No one wants to find a band-aid in their food, but physical contamination can also contain pathogenic bacteria that could cause a foodborne illness.


There are many physical hazards that could lead to contamination, but some examples include:

  • Hair
  • Glass
  • Bandages
  • String
  • Plastic
  • Bird droppings
  • Dead insects

Best Practice

Always unpack food in a separate area away from food prep areas to reduce the risk of physical contamination from the packaging.

Also, Bug Zappers should ideally be placed near external doors. They should not be located close to open food, as dead insects could drop on the foods and contaminate it.

Allergen Cross-Contact

Allergen cross-contact occurs when an allergen’s proteins come into contact with another food and mix. Unlike pathogenic bacteria, an allergen’s proteins cannot be cooked off, and even the smallest traces of could cause an allergic reaction.

Best Practices

Store common allergens separately from other foods and be sure to clean and sanitize surfaces and equipment. If an allergen accidentally comes in contact when preparing an allergen free meal, do not try picking it out and serve the meal. Remember, once the proteins come into contact with the dish, they cannot be cooked out and can still cause an allergic reaction.

Learn more about preventing contamination by taking our Food Handlers, Allergen Awareness, and Food Proctection Manager training.

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