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Biological Hazards


Biological hazards include microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, parasites, fungi and mould. Some microorganisms, such as Salmonella spp., Listeria monocytogenes, Bacillus cereus, E. coli O157:H7 and Campylobacter jejuni are pathogenic and able to cause foodborne illnesses. Other microorganisms, such as Clostridium botulinum and Staphylococcus aureus, produce harmful toxins. Botulism in particular can have severe health consequences.

Examples of sources of biological hazards include:

  • incoming ingredients, including raw materials
  • cross-contamination in the processing or storage environment
  • employees
  • food contact surfaces
  • the air
  • water
  • insects and rodents

This section of the RDHI 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.

Although mycotoxins produced by toxigenic strains of mould and fungi are considered a chemical hazard, information on fungi and mould is included in this section of the RDHI.

Other Information

Foodborne Bacterial Agents

Bacterial toxins are produced by some microorganisms as a by-product of growth. Some bacterial toxins (for example, Staphylococcus aureus and Clostridium botulinum) cannot be deactivated by cooking. 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 and 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 the microorganism.

Fungi and Mould

Mycotoxins are toxic chemical compounds that are produced by fungi in response to competitive pressures from other fungi/bacteria. Mycotoxins are very stable and resistant to heat (meaning, unaffected by cooking). Even at small concentrations, they can cause toxic damage to cells of humans and animals. There are hundreds of mycotoxins in existence. Examples include Vomitoxin, Aflatoxin, and Patulin. They are usually associated with particular crops (for example, corn, cereal crops, apples).



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