When you first hear the phrase “Chemical Hazards” you may think of large chemical spills on the freeway, rat poison under the unlocked kitchen sink, or even secret government agents in white and chrome hazmat suits! In the food safety world, however, chemical hazards are much less visible making their threat all the more serious. Dangerous chemical hazards have many sources: from the chemicals used to sanitize our workplace to the very food we are cooking.
Here are some questions about chemical hazards that you can use to get your employees thinking about food safety:
- What’s the difference between Chemical and biological hazards?
Chemical hazards are non-living, while biological hazards are living organisms, such as bacteria and viruses.
- Are all chemical hazards man-made?
No. Some chemical hazards are present in the food we eat, regardless of human interaction. For example, potatoes contain glycoalkaloids which cause any number of digestive and nervous system complications when taken in high enough quantities. We avoid taking in this dangerous chemical in high quantities by cutting away dark spots, peeling the potatoes and removing any new growth or green areas before cooking thoroughly. Make sure employees are aware of the possible chemical hazards in the foods you prepare at your establishment.
- How can you keep the food you are preparing from being contaminated by harmful chemicals?
There are many ways, but three basic things to remember are (1) properly wash all fruits and vegetables prior to use, (2) keep all chemicals away from cooking and prepping surfaces when food is present, and (3) store all chemicals separately from food items.
To go along with these questions, here are some helpful training tips for avoiding chemical hazards:
- Show employees how to store chemicals in designated areas in order to avoid cross-contamination.
- Instruct your employees to never mix chlorine and ammonia as that will produce a poisonous gas when combined.
- Invest in chemical dispensers and show your employees how their proper use keeps them and their customers safe.
- Teach them to ALWAYS follow manufacturer labels when mixing and diluting chemicals.
- Help them to see why they need to be sure that all chemicals are properly labeled to avoid harmful mixes.
- Show them how to properly wash all fruits and vegetables of pesticides and manure.