Biological hazards in food
Of the three food hazards—biological, chemical, and physical—biological hazards are the most common cause of foodborne disease. You may be aware that these hazards involve pathogens, or harmful microorganisms, such as viruses, bacteria, and parasites. Pathogens such as Salmonella and E. coli cause some of the most infamous foodborne illness outbreaks, making biological hazards an important consideration for establishments seeking to maintain a reputation of safety and reliability.
Training employees on biological hazards
The following are some simple questions about biological hazards to discuss with your employees:
- What are the “Big 5” foodborne illnesses?
Shigellosis, E. coli poisoning, Salmonellosis, Norovirus, and Hepatitis A
- What is the Temperature Danger Zone, where biological hazards are likely to multiply rapidly?
41-135 degrees Fahrenheit
- What are germs and how could they be passed to the customer?
“Germs” is a common way to refer to pathogens. They often come in contact with food through people, contaminated food, and food contact surfaces that haven’t been cleaned and sanitized.
- How long should you scrub hands when handwashing?
15 seconds—about how long it takes to sing the ABC song
You might try incorporating the ideas listed below to reinforce this concept:
- Demonstrate proper handwashing. Point out the common hiding places of pathogens, such as in between fingers and underneath fingernails.
- Explain that pathogens reside both inside and outside of even healthy humans. Help employees to reduce the number of biological hazards introduced to food by discouraging bad habits such as touching your hair or face while preparing food.
- Review the symptoms of foodborne illness that indicate an employee should stay home from work (vomiting, diarrhea, jaundice, and sore throat with fever). Sick employees coming to work is a major cause of foodborne illness outbreaks, so emphasize that feeling ill is understandable and calling the manager is necessary when these symptoms are present. As a manager, you hold a great deal of influence in encouraging employees to prevent those biological hazards from entering your establishment.
Preventing biological hazards
Regularly reviewing biological hazards is essential for helping your employees protect both your customers and your establishment. You might consider using posters as reminders about food hazards, symptoms of foodborne illness, and proper handwashing. To learn more about the dangers that biological hazards present, check out our Food Handler Training course.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in June 2015 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.