Foreign Objects in Foodstuffs
Article by Camilla Barrow, Operations Manager, Bio-Science Technologies (Pty) Ltd, Durban, 2011
Foreign objects can enter food products in a number of ways:
- inherent in raw materials before processing;
- during the manufacturing process;
- during the packing process;
- during transport;
- during retail display.
An example of a foreign object introduced before processing may be an initial contamination in a raw material commodity (such as corn that had stones or stalks).
An example of foreign objects introduced during manufacturing or packing are metallic objects from machinery wear and tear, breakdowns or repairs.
Generally foreign object contamination does not occur during transport or retail display. This is due to protection of the foodstuff from outside contamination by the packaging. Lengthy transport periods (road, sea freight) or retail display periods (long shelf life, low turnover stock items) may result in packaging being compromised by insect infestation, or faulty sealing of the packaging.
The majority of foreign objects found in foodstuffs are harmless to the consumer, but are unsightly and indicate lack of good manufacturing practice (GMP). Some foreign objects can result in harm to consumers, such as the presence of glass slivers or other small sharp objects.
Ready to eat foods contaminated by foreign objects may be spoiled by the introduction of micro-organisms introduced by the foreign object.
Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) principles must be used to reduce the possibility of contamination. Prerequisite programs (PRP) allow a manufacturing facility to formulate standard operating procedures (SOP) that will reduce the chances of contamination.