Chemical Hazards Analysis in HACCP

BY Mtho Moyo

HACCP studies are a pain, aren’t they? What should we include and what should we exclude? Are some of the questions that run through our minds as we decipher the hazards analysis in the HACCP studies of our food safety management systems? Quite often we conduct these studies just to get through the dreaded audits. Let us always remember that we implement the food safety management systems to comply with legislation, customer requirements and a genuine concern to protect ourselves and our beloved consumers from drastic consequences.


Now let us zoom in on chemical hazards. Chemical hazards are defined as “toxic substances and any other compounds that may render a food unsafe for consumption”. Sources of chemical hazards include:

  • Raw Materials  - Fertilizers, pesticides, heavy metals, packaging material, inks, colour additives, fungicides, hormones etc.
  • Processing - Colour additives
  • Maintenance - Lubricants, paint, coatings
  • Cleaning - Cleaning chemicals,sanitisers

There is a type of chemical hazard that we all normally forget about!. Yes you guessed it, Mycotoxins. Forget the exotic sounding name mycotoxins can be deadly to humans or animals. What are they and why should we take them seriously? A mycotoxin (from Greek ?ύ??? (mykes, mukos) "fungus" and ?????ό? (toxikon) "poison" is a toxic secondary metabolite produced by organisms of the fungi kingdom, commonly known as molds. One mold species may produce many different mycotoxins, and the same mycotoxin may be produced by several species.


Mycotoxins can appear in the food chain as a result of fungal infection of crops, either by being eaten directly by humans or by being used as livestock feed. Mycotoxins greatly resist decomposition or being broken down in digestion, so they remain in the food chain in meat and dairy products. Even temperature treatments, such as cooking and freezing, do not destroy some mycotoxins.

Aflatoxins are a type of mycotoxin produced by Aspergillus species of fungi, such as A. flavus and A. parasiticus.


Effect on Humans:

Mycotoxicosis is the term used for poisoning associated with exposures to mycotoxins. The symptoms of mycotoxicosis depend on the type of mycotoxin - the concentration and length of exposure as well as age, health, and sex of the exposed individual. In turn, mycotoxins have the potential for both acute and chronic health effects via ingestion, skin contact, and inhalation. These toxins can enter the blood stream and lymphatic system; they inhibit protein synthesis, damage macrophage systems, inhibit particle clearance of the lung, and increase sensitivity to bacterial endotoxin.


In 2004 in Kenya, 125 people died and nearly 200 others were treated after eating aflatoxin-contaminated maize. The deaths were mainly associated with homegrown maize that had not been treated with fungicides or properly dried before storage. Due to food shortages at the time, farmers may have been harvesting maize earlier than normal to prevent thefts from their fields, so that the grain had not fully matured and was more susceptible to infection.


When it comes to Chemical hazards Analysis.  it is important to have a holistic appproch that will include both:

  • naturally occuring chemicals such as mycotoxins, mushroom toxins, shellfish toxins
  •  as well as added chemicals such as growth hormones,pesticides,food additives etc.
 August 12, 2014
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Food Safety
Mtho Moyo

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