Contamination Risks & Evaluation

Food ingredients are always at risk from contamination and cross-contamination. Any ingredient, additive or blend is susceptible to becoming contaminated. Contamination can be present in physical, chemical and biological forms and may invade the supply chain at any point prior to use. Classic examples of contamination include:

  • Unwanted food or non-food (grade) substances which may find their way into a viable ingredient or ingredient stream accidentally or intentionally.
  • Adulteration of an ingredient via addition of a harmful or potentially harmful material or substance.
  • Unwanted and potentially harmful changes to the content and purity of the ingredient brought on by a chemical reaction or propagation of microbiological organisms.

Cross-contamination is a form of contamination which occurs when a normally suitable and viable ingredient is contacted by an impure, unwanted or harmful substance, causing the ingredient to become adulterated, unusable and possibly unsafe. The term is classically used to describe a contact event wherein a food or ingredient is contacted by a microbiological organism or a source which is likely to impart microbiological contaminants. Examples include:

  • Raw meat juice contacting formerly sanitary foods or ingredients
  • Certain sensitive foods contacting cooked or ready-to-eat foods

There are, however, other forms of cross contamination which needs to be considered and controlled. Examples include:

  • Viable foods or ingredients which come in contact with surfaces or containers which are not clean
  • Ingredients contact with common processing equipment which was not properly washed after prior use
  • Conditions are not properly controlled within a supply chain or process to insure that the integrity of individual, viable ingredients which may be at risk of contact with a known allergen or other sensitive substance or ingredient known to cause physical reaction in sensitive individuals.


Every food handling, processing or supply facility should create and maintain a process to evaluate, inspect, audit and validate incoming ingredients and the conditions that they were likely to have encountered within their known chain of supply.

Examples of these actions include:

  • requesting, reviewing and verifying supplier quality and safety disclosure based on best practices and food ingredients regulations
  • creating and applying a program of visual and/or sensory analysis of critical incoming ingredients and additives against standard references
  • outside lab testing of critical ingredients for contaminants
  • embargoing or holding scheduled ingredients awaiting chemical or microbiological testing “clearance”

EHA is skilled in providing clients with expert analysis and guidance to analyze, identify and mitigate risks for contamination and cross-contamination of incoming or outgoing ingredients.