What You Should Know About Food Contamination?

What is food contamination?

Food contamination refers to the presence of harmful food contaminants to the food products which may cause health hazards. Food contaminants may be of three types-Physical, chemical and microbial. The presence of food contaminants in food products degrades the quality of food products and causes food-borne illness.

1)Physical contamination:

When food products are contaminated with physical foreign bodies. This type of contamination can be happened at any stage of processing, handling and storage. In case of milk and milk products, commonly found physical contaminants are dust, dung and animal hair. Soil and grit may be found in fruits and vegetables.

-Proper cleaning is required to prevent physical contamination.

-Personnel hygiene is very important. If you are handling food items, you must wear hat/mask/gloves. This would reduce the chance of physical contamination.

-Pest control should be done. 

2)Chemical contamination: When food products are contaminated with harmful chemicals. Non-permitted food colors and preservatives are commonly found chemical contaminants in canned and packaged food products. Heavy metals, pesticides and insecticides are found in fruits and vegetables. Food business operators sometimes intentionally add harmful heavy metals and additives beyond the prescribed limits. They are highly toxic in nature. Milk may be contaminated with starch and caustic soda.

-Storage at proper temperature and packaging may reduce this type of contamination.

-cleaning of utensils at regular interval may prevent chemical contamination. 

3)Microbial contamination: When food products are contaminated with toxic substances produced my microorganisms. Microorganisms may be bacteria, virus and yeasts, molds. They produce toxic substances which are harmful. These toxic substances cause food poisoning. Salmonella and E.coli produce food poisoning.

-Cleaning and sanitation during processing may reduce this type of contamination.

-Hygienic cooking can destroy some pathogenic microorganisms.

Commonly food contaminants found in Food products and their effects.


Food Items Adulterants Effects
Cereals like Rice, Wheat Stone, Sand, Grit Stomach problems
Milk Urea Stomach disorders
Ghee Vanaspati, Animal Fat Heart disease
Non-alcoholic drinks Non-permitted colors, additives Cancer, Infertility
Wheat, Bajra Ergot vomiting
Fish Formalin Cancer
Besan Metanil Yellow Stomach disorders
Pulses Lead Chromate Stomach problems
Turmeric Lead chromate, Metanil Yellow Stomach disorders
Green Peas Artificial color Carcinogenic
Vegetable oil Castor oil Stomach disorders
Mustard Argemone Seeds Glaucoma
Coffee Powder Tamarind seeds Stomach disorders
Jaggery Washing Powder Liver disorders
Sugar Chalk Powder Indigestion
Green Chili Malachite Green Carcinogenic

India’s Food regulatory body FSSAI (Food Safety and Standards Authority of India) has defined “crop contamination”. As per FSSAI, “Crop contaminant” means any substance not intentionally added to food, but which gets added to articles of food in the process of their production (including operations carried out in crop husbandry, animal husbandry and veterinary medicine), manufacture, processing, preparation, treatment, packing, packaging transport or holding of articles of such food as a result of environmental contamination”.

FSSAI has prescribed the maximum limit for crop contaminants-

Name of the Contaminants Article of Food Limit µg/kg
Aflatoxin All articles of food 30
Aflatoxin M1 Milk 0.5
Patulin Apple juice & Apple juice ingredients in other  beverages 50
Ochratoxin A Wheat, barley & rye 20



 Control measures-

Prevention should be taken. You can follow the following steps.

-Wash your hands properly before taking foods.

-Wash raw food products before cooking.

-Cook at high temperature. This would destroy many microorganisms.

-Store foods at refrigerator in order to prevent the growth of bacteria.

-Don’t buy packaged foods or canned foods whose seal has been broken.

-Avoid street foods.

Nowadays, food contamination is a major issue in India. Government may take suitable steps against food contamination. We should maintain proper hygiene to prevent food contamination.

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