"Come quick! A customer just found a metal screw in their food!"
You poke your head out to see a very angry customer yelling at your manager. After a few minutes, your red-faced manager comes back into the kitchen. He angrily tells all the food workers to inspect nearby equipment. You are standing next to the mixer and see that a screw is missing on top.
This could easily happen in any food establishment if you aren’t careful! Physical hazards are unappetizing for anyone to find in food, and customers will complain if they find one. They could even be injured by accidentally eating a physical hazard.
What is a Physical Hazard?
A physical hazard is anything that ends up in food that might be dangerous for the customer. Some hazards are accidental like metal screws, glass, nail polish, pieces of jewelry, metal fragments, and so on. Others are a natural part of food, like bones or pits. Even a toothpick could become a physical hazard if the customer doesn’t notice it before taking a bite.
No one wants to find a physical hazard in their food. Hopefully the customer will see the hazard before putting it in their mouth. But if they don’t, they could chip a tooth, cut their mouth, choke, or swallow it and cause internal damage.
The best way to keep customers safe is prevent physical hazards in the first place. How do you do that?
Practice Good Hygiene
Wear the right clothes when preparing food. Especially wear some type of hair restraint! Hair can easily end up in food if you don’t wear one. Don’t wear jewelry on your hands or wrists like watches, rings with stones, and bracelets. Jewelry could chip or pieces could fall off, which could get into food. Rings with stones could tear gloves. All jewelry could provide additional places for bacteria to hide. As a food handler, the only jewelry you can safely wear is a plain ring, like a wedding band.
If you wear artificial nails or nail polish, you must wear gloves. Otherwise, your nails or polish could end up in the food you prepare.
Make sure the equipment you use is in good condition. If there are loose parts or pieces, let your manager know. For example, if your plastic cutting board has lots of deep cuts, plastic pieces could break off into the food you’re preparing. Make inspecting equipment a part of how you work. When you first bring out a piece of equipment, look over it quickly. You should also look over equipment and utensils as you are cleaning them.
You can find some physical hazards when receiving foods, especially produce. Look out for things like stones, twigs, chunks of dirt, and other debris as you accept or reject incoming shipments. Remove these hazards during cleaning or prewashing.
Be Aware of Natural Hazards
Some foods have natural physical hazards. If you’re preparing fish, inspect it for bones as you prepare it. If you’re preparing fruit with pits or seeds, make sure to remove them completely and look for any pieces you missed. Also check nuts to make sure there are no shell pieces left.
The bottom line is, if you know a food has natural physical hazards, double-check it before sending it out to a customer.
Taking these steps will help prevent physical hazards and keep your customers safe. They will also help you maintain equipment and keep it working smoothly. Remember that physical hazards can happen at any time during food preparation, so keep your eyes open for anything unusual.
— Kylie Molen
Download/print cartoon: Gingerbread Chef Physical Hazard
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