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Explore this issueAugust/September 2013
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The Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) system classifies risks to consumers into three categories—biological, chemical, and physical—and it emphasizes preventing, reducing, or eliminating high-risk biological hazards. Food safety professionals, as a result of years of education, experience, and audits to the HACCP system, often relegate physical hazards to lower risk status, primarily controlled through the metal detector and supplier approval programs. When focusing on microorganisms, it is easy for the food safety professional to forget that the “illness” in “food borne illnesses” encompasses injuries as well as disease.
The general public, however, has a different perspective on food safety hazards. Consider a salad with fresh, crisp lettuce, crunchy cucumbers, and juicy tomatoes. Food safety professionals see a salad as a bowl potentially brimming with E. coli O157:H7, pesticides, and insects. Consumers, however, won’t notice the E. coli O157:H7 and are unlikely to be concerned about chemicals, unless it’s a question about the organic status of the vegetables. But they will notice a grasshopper nestled under the lettuce at the bottom of the dish. Where food safety professionals focus their actions on the intangible risks of biological and chemical hazards, consumers focus on the material risks of physical hazards.