What is Food Contamination?

Food contamination refers to food that has been corrupted with another substance – either physical, biological or chemical.
What is Food Contamination?
June 29, 2016

It is first important to understand what the potential hazards are when it comes to food safety. 

Food contamination refers to food that has been corrupted by another substance – either physical, biological or chemical.

Biological Contamination

Biological contamination refers to food that is contaminated by organisms or substances they produce. This includes biological matter produced by humans, rodents, insects and microorganisms.

Bacteria and viruses are typically the two biggest causes of biological contamination and can result in some of the most common types of food poisoning including salmonella, E .coli, listeria and Norovirus. Thoroughly washing your hands and sanitising the food handling equipment are two of the best ways to prevent against bacterial contamination.

Physical Contamination

Physical contamination is when a foreign object contaminates food. This can happen at any stage of the production process and could include Band-Aids, steel wool or pieces of plastic.

Physical contamination can cause injury to an individual who inadvertently consumes the foreign object. The added risk associated with physical contamination is that the foreign object could be carrying biological contamination.

Chemical Contamination

Chemical contamination refers to food that has been contaminated with a natural or artificial chemical substance. These contaminants are particularly dangerous as they expose people to any number of toxic substances, some of which can be fatal.

Chemicals can also contaminate food at any time of the food process, whether by pesticides transferred from the soil the food is grown in or during the manufacturing process. Storing chemicals separately from food is essential to help protect against chemical contamination.


Cross-contamination is when biological, physical or chemical contaminants get into food, making it unsafe to eat and putting people at risk of food-borne diseases. Cross-contamination is a huge problem for food businesses, which is why it's so important to train everyone who handles food in your business on food safety and hygiene. 

The Australian Institute of Food Safety (AIFS) provides high-quality online food safety training for employees at all levels. For more information about food safety training and how to improve food safety in your business, contact us. We're here to help.