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Date Posted: June 21, 2024

Decoding Chemical Hazards in the Food Industry: An Overview for Food Safety Professionals

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Written By: Quality Associates

The Quality Associates team has vast experience in FMCG, food production, horticulture, food technology, supply chain management and foodservice.

Decoding Chemical Hazards in the Food Industry: An Overview for Food Safety Professionals

 

 

Dr Andreas Klieber, Managing Director

 

Chemical Hazards are one of four food safety hazards, besides allergens, biological and physical hazards, required to be managed by food manufacturers and retailers.
The “Chemical Hazards Management” course by Quality Associates Training (RTO 41341) delivers a crucial blueprint for understanding and mitigating chemical risks within the food industry.
This summary provides an overview of chemical hazards and some examples, illustrating the diverse chemical hazards that food safety professionals must navigate.

Types of Chemical Risks

Chemical contamination can occur due to insufficient controls by Pre-requisite Programs, for example cleaning, or critical control points. This would be considered accidental or unintentional.
Additionally, the risk of food fraud and food defence issues need to be managed. These are deliberate contamination events and in either case, hazardous materials may be introduced to the food.

Managing Chemical Food Safety Hazards

Types of Chemical Hazards

There are several types of chemical hazards. These can be classified into the following classes:

– Agricultural Chemicals: Antibiotics, pesticides and herbicides used in farming can leave residues on raw materials if not properly managed. Heavy metals may also be introduced into the food from farming practices or aquatic conditions.
– Prohibited and Restricted Foods: A range of foods have inherent toxic properties and these are not permitted for, or restricted from, use. Examples for Australia are apricot kernels, betel nuts and a variety of mushrooms.
– Food Additives and Preservatives: Substances like sulphites and nitrates used to preserve food can pose health risks if used excessively. Several of these are also allergens that must be managed appropriately.
– Chemicals in the Factory Environment: Food can become contaminated from cleaning chemicals and other chemicals used in the factory environment.
– Contaminants from Packaging: Chemicals like bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates from plastic packaging can migrate into food products, especially high fat-containing foods. Increasingly, there is also a focus on PFAS type of chemicals that accumulate in the food production environment.
– Naturally Produced Toxins: Naturally occurring toxins, such as mycotoxins from mould or toxins in certain fish species, present significant safety concerns.
– Process Contaminants: Chemicals like acrylamide, which can form during high-temperature cooking processes.

Regulatory Framework and Compliance

Understanding the regulatory landscape is crucial for compliance and safety. The course highlights the roles of the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) and Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), among others. They regulate the use of chemicals in the food industry, emphasizing the importance of adhering to Maximum Residue Limits (MRLs), using approved chemicals only, and complying with permitted use of ingredients and food additives.

Chemical Testing: Ensuring Safety

Chemical testing is pivotal in identifying and quantifying hazards. A range of testing methods such as Gas Chromatography (GC) and Liquid Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (LC-MS) can be used. This allows verification that the food is compliant with regulatory limits or for claims made, for example, no artificial colours being used.

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Real-world Implications: Case Studies

Through case studies like the melamine scandal in dairy products and the horse meat incident, the course highlights the severe consequences of chemical hazards. They underscore the critical need for vigilance and strict adherence to safety practices in food production.
Case studies are presented for specific food categories including organic products, fresh produce, cereal products, meat, poultry, eggs and seafood, dairy and fats and oils.

Best Practices for Mitigating Risks

The course offers many practical steps for mitigating chemical risks, including:
– Proper Application of Agricultural Chemicals: Ensuring that chemicals are applied in accordance with safety guidelines to avoid residues in the final product.
– Compliance with Food Production Standards: Selecting safe food and packaging materials and labelling foods appropriately.
– Managing Contaminants in the Farming and Factory Environment: These includes potentially allergenic substances, cleaning chemicals and heavy metals.
– Controlling Processes: This includes managing the storage of foods and raw materials to prevent the accumulation of microbial toxins.
– Rigorous Testing and Monitoring: Regular testing of raw materials and finished products to detect any potential contamination.

Training

The “Managing Chemical Hazards” course by Quality Associates Training is an essential resource for food safety professionals, providing detailed insights into identifying, assessing, and mitigating chemical risks.
Quality Associates is a key partner to leading food manufacturers and retailers and offers a wide range of services to ensure food safety and compliance.
For further detailed insights and guidance on managing chemical hazards and more, visit Quality Associates Training (https://www.qualityassociates.com.au/training/all-training-courses/) and explore our extensive training programs and services designed specifically for food industry professionals.

 

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