Generally speaking, there are three types of hazards in a food-processing facility. They are physical, chemical and biological. A physical hazard is any extraneous object or foreign matter in a food item which may cause illness or injury to a person consuming the product. These foreign objects include, but are not limited to bones, metal fragments, plastics, stones, glass or personal items.

Each year, companies across the nation are subjected to the stress and expense of recalls as a result of foreign materials finding their way into food products.

The institution of effective interventions can greatly reduce the risk of the severe regulatory and civil pitfalls, which can result if foreign objects find their way into your products. Avoidance is not only important in terms of consumer safety, but can also do devastating damage to your brand through the publicity associated with recalls and injuries.

Avoiding these incidents requires a frank, careful analysis of a company’s programs. Start by asking: What potential physical hazards exist within our products? Where might they come from? In the event that hazards are introduced, how can we ensure their removal?

Each food product or processing facility faces its own set of unique risks and dangers. Once identified, these risks can be addressed through additional preventative measures, or by simply refining your existing Hazard Analysis Critical Control (HACCP) program.

In many cases, the most effective measures are also the easiest. Metal-detection equipment, while costly, can ensure that your products are free of potentially dangerous metal shavings or other objects which can enter the food not only in your own establishment but in those of upstream suppliers as well. Working to keep contaminants off the processing floor is often as simple as ensuring that employees wear appropriate clothing and also keep personal items out of production areas.

Physical hazards, unlike chemical or biological hazards, are unique in that their affects are unlikely to be widespread. Nonetheless, it is estimated that 8 in 10 injuries associated with foreign object contamination occur in children. Thus, even a single episode can have a lasting impact on the perceived safety and quality of a company’s products.

Careful analysis, inspection and planning can help to ensure that, with respect to foreign contaminants or objects, no customer or regulator will ever have a bone to pick with the safety of your products.