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Physical Contaminants in Food

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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

Physical contaminants in food may chip teeth or simply look unsightly. Unfortunately there are a great many possible physical contaminants in food and this lesson goes over many of them.

What Are Physical Contaminants?

Although rare, it's not unheard of to come across a news story that tells of a poor chap who was at some fast food restaurant. He was eating a burger or some soup and before you knew it, something disgusting popped up. Sometimes it's hair. Other times it's a tooth. You've probably even heard of a cockroach or even a mouse making it into someone's meal. Anyway, physical contaminants in food are real and really disgusting.

Put simply, physical contaminants are objects or substances found in food that should not be there. They aren't substances that are purely chemical in nature, like detergents, or purely biologically microscopic (microbiological) in nature either, like bacteria. However, a physical contaminant may also be coated with a chemical substance or a microscopic bug that may pose a danger to human health. For instance, a piece of plastic is a physical contaminant that's made up of lots of different chemicals. A cockroach in someone's food is not microscopic, but it harbors microscopic bacteria.

Any living or once living thing in food is a biological contaminant regardless of how small (like a bacterium) or how big (like a rat or mouse) this contaminant is. Other sources restrict a biological contaminant to only microscopic things like viruses, parasites, and bacteria.

The reality is that something like a mouse is both a physical and biological contaminant. A bone is considered a physical contaminant, and a bacterium is a biological contaminant. But a mouse in your soup has bones that can harm you if chomped on and bacteria that can cause a disease.

Examples of Physical Contaminants

So what can be found in food that is considered to be a physical contaminant?

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