Training Tip: Understanding Food Hazards

Physical, Chemical, and Biological HazardsOne of the most important things a food handler can learn during training is that food hazards and foodborne illness are a real threat to people’s health. The CDC estimates that one in every six Americans contracts a foodborne illness each year, and worse still, that about 3,000 of these 48,000,000 victims die of foodborne illness. Many of these incidents can be prevented, however, by trained employees who understand food hazards.

Foodborne illnesses are usually caused by biological hazards, or bacteria, viruses, and other parasites that get into food and make people sick. Food handlers may recognize the names of well-known foodborne bacteria and viruses such as Salmonella, E. coli, and Hepatitis A.

Biological hazards are by far the most common cause of food-related illness and injury, but they aren’t the only one. Physical hazards are objects in food that can hurt or choke a customer, like a piece of plastic wrap or an unexpected bone in meat. Chemical hazards occur when dangerous chemicals get into food—for example, if pesticides aren’t washed from a piece of fruit, or if a food handler sprays a sanitizing chemical too close to a customer’s meal.

If there’s anything we want employees to take away from this training topic, it’s that food hazards should be taken seriously. Serving contaminated food can cost an establishment business and endanger people’s health. When training employees, discuss hazards that could potentially affect the food they handle, like pieces of packaging or broken equipment, mishandled cleaning chemicals, and bacteria and viruses from unwashed hands. Once food handlers understand what food hazards are and why they are such a problem, they should have a strong foundation for learning to prevent them. provides an expanded discussion of food hazards in our online Food Handler Training course, complete with illustrated and interactive content to reinforce food handler comprehension.

Katie Heil

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