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In order to begin creating a HACCP Plan, one must first have an understanding of what are considered hazards. A food safety hazard is a biological, chemical, or physical agent that, if not properly controlled, can cause illness or injury to the individual who consumes the food. The main task of a Food Safety/HACCP plan is to prevent, eliminate, or reduce to an acceptable level those food safety hazards that are “reasonably likely to occur” and could cause disease or injury if they are not appropriately controlled.

There are four types of general food safety hazards: biological, chemical, physical, and radiological.

  • Biological hazards include bacterial, viral, and parasitic pathogens. A pathogen may be defined as a biological agent that causes disease or illness to its host.
  • Chemical hazards include toxins, pollutants, drugs, allergens, or ingredients that can cause illness due to immediate or long-term exposure. This also includes radiological hazards include ingredients and packaging received from areas with higher than typical radiation levels, proximity to nuclear power facilities, and acts of bioterrorism.
  • Physical hazards are foreign objects within a product such as glass, metal, or plastic fragments.

Biological Hazards

Biological hazards are comprehensively covered in the Dairy Microbiology sheet found in our on-line folder.

Chemical Hazards


Potential Source(s)



  • Ingredients
  • Sub-ingredients
  • Processing aids
  • Rework
  • Product change-overs
  • Adequate cleaning/sanitizing
  • Proper labeling
  • Proper ingredient receipt and storage

Drug Residues

  • Dairy ingredients
  • Raw ingredient testing

Mycotoxins-toxin produced by mold

  • Ingredients
  • Growth in product
  • Raw ingredient testing


  • Ingredients
  • Plant environment
  • Raw ingredient testing
  • Environmental sampling
  • Adequate cleaning/sanitizing


  • CIP cross-connections
  • Over application
  • Adhering to GMPs and SOPs


  • Over addition
  • Adhering to SOPs
  • Allergens are one the most common chemical hazards as researchers estimate that nearly 15 million American suffer from a food allergy. Eight foods account for 90 percent of all reactions: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish and shellfish. Even trace amounts of a food allergen can cause a reaction.
  • Radiological Hazards : The FDA has prepared Guidance Levels for Radionuclides in Domestic and Imported Foods with the most current information.

Physical Hazards


Potential Source(s)



  • Bottles
  • Jars
  • Light fixtures
  • Gauge Covers
  • Ingredient Control
  • Sieves, screens, filters
  • Metal detection
  • X-ray systems
  • Visual Inspection
  • Preventative Maintenance


  • Shavings from metal-on-metal action
  • Equipment parts


  • Packaging Material
  • Pallets
  • Employees
  • Equipment


  • Pallets/Boxes
  • Plant environment