Physical contaminants in food can be harmful and objectionable and are major cause of customer complaints received many food manufacturers, retailers and restaurants. These complaints in most case are genuine, but can also be a deliberate attempt to defraud a food business. All complaints must take seriously and investigated thoroughly.
Physical contaminants in food fall into two distinct categories: intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic contaminants are extraneous matter that is a natural part of the food product, such bones, stones, stalks, egg shell, etc. Whereas extrinsic extraneous matter is something added to the food product. Extrinsic extraneous matter can include steel shot found in game, cleaning cloths, wire filaments from metal scrubber, razor blades and plaster. It is important to consider the source physical contaminants to prevent contamination. Sources include: people, pests, premises, product and packaging. All of these sources should be considered when conducting a hazards analysis.
Hair is the most common and expected physical contaminant found in food, but consumers have found some very strange things. Complaints include a tip of a human finger found in ice-cream, razor blades, batteries, a live frog, a baked mouse found in a loaf of bread and even condom in a can of soup.
Some complaints are blatant attempt to defraud a food business. A diner in the UK received a custodial sentence for deliberately contaminating his meal with pubic hair. This dishonest character was caught on CCTV putting his own pubic into food. But the most publicised case of foreign body fraud was in USA in 2005. A diner claimed she found a 1 ½ inch human finger in her bowl of chilli in a bogus attempt to claim a substantial amount in compensation. But she easy found out because the coroner could prove the finger had not been cooked in the chilli. It was later revealed the diner’s husband had bought the severed finger from a co-worker for $100. The court sentenced the husband to 12 years in jail and his wife 5 years. This single incident of fraud cost the restaurant chain $21 million.
Physical contamination hazards and control measures are covered on all food safety and HACCP courses. We cater for all roles within a food business with courses starting at level 1 through to level 4. These courses are delivered by subject matter experts with practical experience within the food industry.