Physical hazards

Food Standard and Quality Control

Lesson 13 : Food Hazards

Physical hazards

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 bone or bone chips, metal flakes or fragments, injection needles, BB's or shotgun pellets, pieces of product packaging, stones, glass or wood fragments, insects or other filth, personal items, or any other foreign material not normally found in food products.

Physical hazards result from the inadvertent inclusion of harmful extraneous materials in the final product. Typically, extraneous materials are the leading source of consumer complaints. Physical hazards may involve a wide variety of objects, such as those listed in Table 1

Table 1. Wide variety of physical hazards

Broken glass Nails steel Wooden splinters
Machinery parts Wire Metal filings
Seeds and pits Building materials Ink pens
Plant matter (stems, twigs, bark) Staples Solder slag
Pencils Screws Shards of stainless
Coins Stones Nuts/ bolts
Jewelry Duct tape Paper clips

Sources for such contaminants include raw materials, badly maintained facilities and equipment, improper production procedures and poor employee practices. Processors must determine procedures to control physical hazards and then, during the hazard analysis portion of developing a HACCP plan, determine whether or not the severity and rate of occurrence indicate implementation of a control at that point.
Hard or sharp objects are potential physical hazards and can cause:

  • cuts to the mouth or throat
  • damage to the intestine
  • damage to teeth or gums


The main types of physical hazards in food include:

Glass: common sources found in food processing facilities are light bulbs, glass containers and glass food containers

Metal: common sources of metal include metal from equipment such as splinters, blades, broken needles, fragments from worn utensils, staples, etc.

Plastics: common sources of soft and hard plastics include material used for packaging, gloves worn by food handlers, utensils used for cleaning equipment or from tools used to remove processed food from equipment.

Stones: field crops, such as peas and beans, are most likely to contain small stones picked up during harvesting. Concrete structures and floors in food processing facilities can also be a source of small stones.

Wood: common sources of wood come from wood structures and wooden pallets used to store or transport ingredients or food products.

Controlling physical hazards

Last modified: Saturday, 18 February 2012, 6:21 AM