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Naturally Occurring Physical Hazards in Food

Physical Hazards PosterFood hazards, such as chemical, biological, and physical hazards, can contaminate the food you serve and become harmful to your customers. Knowing how to properly store, prepare, and serve food can help keep your customers safe. Because no amount of cooking or manipulation to food can guarantee it is safe once it is contaminated, it is best to prevent the hazards from contaminating food. This article will discuss naturally occurring physical hazards in food and how to prevent them from contaminating the food you prepare and serve.

How do physical hazards differ from chemical and biological hazards?

Any type of hazard can cause illness or injury if eaten. Biological hazards deal with pathogens, such as viruses, bacteria, and parasites, that can cause foodborne illness. Chemical hazards are toxins or chemicals that occur naturally in food or accidentally contaminate food. These can cause either illness or injury to customers.  Physical hazards are objects, large or small, that can get into food and will most likely, if consumed, choke or injure a customer.

Most often, physical hazards result from an outside source, such as a piece of broken glass or fingernail. However, physical hazards can also occur naturally in food. Naturally occurring physical hazards need to be properly handled to prevent them from contaminating food. Some naturally occurring physical hazards include bones in meat or fish, pits in fruit, and shells on shellfish.

Why are naturally occurring physical hazards dangerous?

Any type of physical hazard, if eaten, can choke a customer. In addition, physical hazards can cut or injure a customer. Naturally occurring hazards are no exception to this; a customer, for example, may break a tooth on a bone or pit that they did not know was in their food. This creates problems for your customers and for your establishment. If your customers do not have a pleasant experience, they are less likely to return to your establishment. To avoid injuring customers, it is best to prevent any hazards from getting into your customers’ food. Take the necessary precautions to ensure the food you serve is safe.

How to prevent harm from naturally occurring physical hazards?

The best way to prevent naturally occurring physical hazards from getting into food is to remove the physical hazard and discard it as soon as possible. If you cannot discard the hazard immediately, you should store them in place where they will not contaminate the food you are working on or other food that could be in the area. In addition, you should be very thorough when removing hazards. For example, you should remove pin bones in a fish fillet or completely remove pits from cherries or olives. Your customers will be pleased with your efforts when they don’t find a hazard in their food.

Additionally, you should NOT use any hazards as a garnish. Your customers will most likely assume that what is on the plate is edible. This could be problematic, especially if your customers ingest the hazard. It is best to use garnishes that are edible.

If the food is supposed to have a naturally occurring hazard, inform your customers, either in person or on the menu. You could list such food items as bone-in chicken wings, oysters on the half shell, and T-bone steaks. This will help your customers to look for and avoid eating the hazards.

Knowing how to prevent naturally occurring physical hazards can help keep your food and customers safe. If you would like to learn more about food hazards or are interested in other food safety topics, visit

Food safety reminder

Remove all naturally occurring physical hazards, such as bones and pits, from food. Maintain equipment to avoid accidental physical hazards.

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Janilyn Hutchings

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in April 2017 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

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