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Biological Hazards

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Biological hazards are hazards that are caused by spoilage or pathogenic microorganisms. Together, these microorganisms pose the greatest food safety concern to food industry and consumers. In addition, in recent years, antimicrobial resistance has developed to be a potential human health hazard and in turn, is one of the major food safety hazards.

Biological hazards include bacteria, viruses, parasites, fungi and moulds, and other quality/sanitary indicators. Their risks may be assessed as low, medium or high depending on the severity of consequences of the hazard. This section of the Reference Database for Hazard Identification provides basic information on various biological hazards.

The data was collected from more than one source and in some cases small variations were observed. However, the information that was gathered and summarized gives a good indication of the parameters influencing the growth of some biological Agents.

Other Information

Foodborne Bacterial Agents

Bacterial toxins are produced by microorganisms as a by-product of growth. Some bacterial toxins (example Staphyloccus aureus and Clostridium botulinum) cannot be deactivated by cooking and can have various origins. Illness may be referred to as 'foodborne intoxication' since it results from the ingestion of a toxin produced by a microbe living on a food product. Acute and immediate effects take place after consumption; symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, chills, sweats, shock, shallow respiration, dizziness, headache, dryness of mouth & throat, muscle paralysis, breathing difficulties within 30 minutes to 72 hours of consumption of food (depending on microorganism), and recovery within 1-10 days (depending on microorganism). Treatments vary depending on microorganism.

Fungi and Mould

Mycotoxins are considered a chemical hazard even if it came from mould. Mycotoxins are: toxic chemical compounds, not microorganisms, are very stable, resistant to heat, unaffected by cooking, produced by fungi as secondary metabolites in response to competitive pressures from other fungi/bacteria that compete for the same water, food, or territory. They can have antibiotic properties, cause toxic damage to cells of humans and animals, cause chronic effects such as various cancers, immunosuppression, growth retardation, birth defects, renal dysfunction, serious long-term effects. Even at small concentrations, there are hundreds in existence. Examples are Vomitoxin, Aflatoxin, and Patulin. They are usually associated with particular crops (i.e. corn, cereal crops, apples).

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Date modified:
2013-07-02