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dele Fapohunda

20 Sept 2023




Eat fat, stay healthy, say dissident scientists
Eat fat, stay healthy, say dissident scientists. Illustration: Guardian Design Team

Butter nonsense: the rise of the cholesterol deniers

A group of scientists has been challenging everything we know about cholesterol, saying we should eat fat and stop taking statins. This is not just bad science – it will cost lives, say experts

Butter is back. Saturated fat is good for you. Cholesterol is not the cause of heart disease. Claims along these lines keep finding their way into newspapers and mainstream websites – even though they contradict decades of medical advice. There is a battle going on for our hearts and minds.

According to a small group of dissident scientists, whose work usually first appears in minor medical journals, by far the greatest threat to our hearts and vascular systems comes from sugar, while saturated fat has been wrongly demonised. And because cholesterol levels don’t matter, they argue, we don’t need the statins that millions have been prescribed to lower them. A high-fat diet is the secret to a healthy life, they say. Enjoy your butter and other animal fats. Cheese is great. Meat is back on the menu.

This is more than bad science, according to leading scientists and medical authorities. It will cost lives. “Encouraging people to eat more saturated fat is dangerous and irresponsible,” is a typical verdict, in this case from Prof Louis Levy, the head of nutrition science at Public Health England (PHE). “There is good evidence that a high intake of saturated fat increases your risk of heart disease. We need to think about where the sources of saturated fat are and how we can reduce them. The largest contributions are dairy products, including butter, and meat and meat products.”

The advice from PHE, the World Health Organization, the British Heart Foundation (BHF), Heart UK and other institutions and top academics is consistent. Butter and cheese may be fine in modest amounts in a balanced diet, but the saturated fat that they contain is potentially risky. Too much of it causes the liver to overproduce “bad” LDL cholesterol, which is implicated in heart disease.

Mainstream scientists usually keep their disquiet to themselves. But last week, some broke cover over what they see as one medical journal’s support for advocates of a high-fat diet. More than 170 academics signed a letter accusing the British Journal of Sports Medicine of bias, triggered by an opinion piece that it ran in April 2017 calling for changes to the public messaging on saturated fat and heart disease. Saturated fat “does not clog the arteries”, said the piece, which was not prompted by original research. “Coronary artery disease is a chronic inflammatory disease and it can be reduced effectively by walking 22 minutes a day and eating real food,” wrote the cardiologist Aseem Malhotra and colleagues. The BHF criticised the claims as “misleading and wrong”.

David Nunan, from Oxford University’s centre for evidence-based medicine, and three colleagues wrote a rebuttal that the journal at first did not use and then, more than a year later, put behind a paywall, while the original article was free. Last week’s letter of complaint asked Dr Fiona Godlee, the editor-in-chief of the BMJ, which publishes the British Journal of Sports Medicine, to intervene, saying the journal had run 10 pieces advocating low-carb diets and criticising statins in the past three years and that the reluctance to run the rebuttal showed a bias and lack of transparency. She replied defending the journal’s right to challenge “the status quo in some settings”, but allowed free access to the rebuttal.

Every time a new review or opinion is published in an obscure or unlikely journal – sports medicine is, after all, primarily about helping the fit get even fitter – it is picked up by newspapers that know statin scares sell. Very often in the UK they quote Malhotra, a charming and telegenic young cardiologist in private practice whose website describes him as “one of the most influential and effective campaigning doctors in the world on issues that affect obesity, heart disease and population health”. He is, it says, “not just a cardiologist. This is a man who wants to change the world one meal at a time by not just rocking the system but by rebuilding it.”

Malhotra urges a low-carb, high-fat diet. His book, The Pioppi Diet, has the distinction of being named by the British Dietetic Association as one of the five worst “celeb” diet books in Britain – celebrities who have tried it include MPs Keith Vaz and Andy Burnham. It includes lots of fruit and vegetables, olive oil and fish, but otherwise “hijacks” the Mediterranean diet, says the BDA.

“The authors may well be the only people in the history of the planet who have been to Italy and come back with a diet named after an Italian village that excludes pasta, rice and bread – but includes coconuts – perhaps because they have a low-carb agenda,” says the BDA. “The suggestion that this Italian village should be associated with recipes for cauliflower-base pizza and rice substitute made from grated cauliflower or anything made using coconut oil is ridiculous. It also uses potentially dangerous expressions like ‘clean meat’ and encourages people to starve themselves for 24 hours at a time every week.”

Malhotra was appointed as the first medical director of Action on Sugar, formed in 2014 by Graham MacGregor, a professor of cardiovascular medicine. Two years later, the group agreed to go their separate ways. By that time, Malhotra was expressing strong views about statins, claiming in a BMJ article that was later partially retracted that they caused side-effects in 20% of patients. On BBC radio, he went further. “It was actually probably an underestimate,” he said, and questioned the benefits of the drug for any patient, citing the cholesterol sceptic Michel de Lorgeril.

He was accused by Prof Rory Collins at Oxford University of endangering lives. Collins said scare stories about statins could do as much harm as Andrew Wakefield did when he claimed that vaccines caused autism.

When it comes to statins, there is a huge database of research. Since 1994, the Nuffield department of population health at Oxford University, led by two eminent epidemiologists, Collins and Prof Richard Peto, has been amassing and analysing the data in order to figure out how well they work in preventing heart attacks and strokes.

They have published many papers. In 2016, in a major review in the Lancet, they concluded that lowering cholesterol over five years with a cheap daily statin would prevent 1,000 heart attacks, strokes and coronary artery bypasses among 10,000 people who had already had one. It would also prevent 500 in people who were at increased risk, for instance because of high blood pressure or diabetes.

“Our review shows that the numbers of people who avoid heart attacks and strokes by taking statin therapy are very much larger than the numbers who have side-effects with it,” Collins said at the time. Most side-effects can be reversed by stopping the statin, he pointed out – but heart attacks cause permanent damage. “Consequently,” he said, “there is a serious cost to public health from making misleading claims about high side-effect rates that inappropriately dissuade people from taking statin therapy despite the proven benefits.”

But the cholesterol sceptics and statins critics reject the evidence on the basis that the trial data is from big pharma and that the raw data is not in the public domain. Maryanne Demasi, a journalist in Australia whose TV programmes questioning statins were pulled from the ABC network because of concerns over impartiality, wrote in January – again in the British Journal of Sports Medicine – of a “crisis of confidence” in the public because “the raw data on the efficacy and safety of statins are being kept secret and have not been subjected to scrutiny by other scientists … Doctors and patients are being misled.”

There were cholesterol sceptics before statins existed, doubting the hypothesis that high cholesterol in the blood, particularly in the form of LDL, furs up the arteries, leading in the worst cases to a blood clot that can trigger a heart attack or stroke. Yet, says Dermot Neely, a consultant in clinical biochemistry and metabolic medicine and a founder trustee of the Heart UK charity: “The cholesterol hypothesis is supported by a vast amount of scientific data.” Recently, an expert paper was published by the European Atherosclerosis Society summarising all the evidence, to try to silence the sceptics.

But they won’t be silenced. A website called Thincs – The International Network of Cholesterol Skeptics – links to published and unpublished papers as well as the various books its members have written, including a joint one entitled Fat and Cholesterol Don’t Cause Heart Attacks. And Statins Are Not the Solution.”

The director and author of many dissident papers is Uffe Ravnskov, a Danish doctor living in Sweden who has been an independent researcher, not part of any university, since 1979. His most recent review, with 15 others who are mostly members of Thincs, was published last month in the Expert Review of Clinical Pharmacology – an obscure source for newspaper stories that has been brought to the attention of media in the US and the UK, including the Daily Express, which has run many anti-statins pieces. “There is no evidence that high levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol cause heart disease and the widespread use of statins is ‘of doubtful benefit’, according to a study by 17 [sic] international physicians,” said the newspaper.

That is flat-earthism, says Collins. “The claims that blood LDL cholesterol levels are not causally related to cardiovascular disease (which is really in the same realm as claiming that smoking does not cause cancer) are factually false,” he maintains. He believes there is an argument for refusing to give cholesterol-deniers a platform, just as some will no longer debate with climate change sceptics.

Neely says a lot of people ring the nurses and dieticians staffing the Heart UK helpline after reading such stories or hearing about them from family and friends. “We’re very concerned whenever these messages result in people stopping a statin that they were prescribed after their heart attack. Every time there has been a statin scare story in the papers, there is a wave of people who just stop picking up their prescriptions. And as a result of that, many will probably be readmitted with another heart attack down the line,” he says. Some of those are young people who have high cholesterol from birth because of a mutated gene. One of Neely’s patients is a young man whose grandfather and father died of heart attacks at 50. He is on a statin and will be the first in three generations to escape that fate, says Neely.

Asked how he can be sure of his position when the vast majority of top research scientists disagree, Ravnskov says: “Because I am right. The reason why the so-called experts say that I am mistaken is that the vast majority are paid generously by the drug companies.” Asked to elaborate, since statins are out of patent and therefore no longer make money for the companies that originally put them on the market, he expounds on the corruption, illegal practices and wealth of pharmaceutical companies.

The Oxford researchers, including Collins, have published their funding. The unit has research funds from pharmaceutical companies, but the individuals do not take money from them. Ironically, say the researchers, if people refuse statins because of concerns over side-effects, they may be put on expensive newer drugs to lower their cholesterol – and this will make money for big pharma.

A furore was triggered by the recommendation by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence in 2014 that millions more people should be offered statins. Anybody who has a 10% chance of a heart attack in the next 10 years – judged on factors including weight, age and blood pressure – should consider taking a statin, it said. Anybody who has already had a heart attack or stroke is strongly advised to take one. Because the patents had expired, the pills had become highly cost-effective.

That means statins are given to healthy people to prevent disease and side-effects have become a major issue. The stories are so widespread that people repeat them as if they are incontrovertible, yet the evidence from trials is that even the much-discussed muscle pain is rare. The sceptics dismiss that evidence. Those trials were funded by big pharma, they say, which had a vested interest in hiding any problems with the drugs.

Some side-effects may be caused by interactions with other drugs people are on, such as antibiotics. But there is also evidence that some people get muscle pain because they expect to after everything they have heard. It is called the nocebo effect.

The dissidents’ arguments are attractively simple. Eat fat, avoid carbs and don’t take the tablets, says Malhotra – who declined to answer questions for this article. We would probably all agree that we should ditch junk food and eat well instead of taking pills. But, realistically, telling people to “eat good food” isn’t going to cut it. The majority of people in the UK and the US are now overweight or obese, with all the heart and vascular problems that brings, and the trend is ever upwards.

One thing is for sure – the dissidents are not going to shut up shop. “My belief about the cholesterol sceptics is that they are a bit like religious fundamentalists,” said Neely. “They are not open to argument. Whatever argument you present, they will find another argument because this basically defines who they are.” He cites a cardiologist in the 1980s, Prof Michael Oliver, who was a sceptic of the cholesterol hypothesis that more LDL increased the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Oliver did a U-turn as more evidence accumulated, saying: “When the facts change, I change my mind.” But, says Neely, “unfortunately the cholesterol sceptics we know currently don’t do that”.

Comment==More empirical evidence ad conclusion are urgently needed to prevent unnecessary diseases ad death



Food Safety for Babies and Toddlers

AngelaRD, LDN, CBS

What to know about feeding your baby and toddler safely

  • Importance of food safety for babies and toddlers
  • Preventing foodborne illness
  • Other food safety considerations

Babies and toddlers are particularly vulnerable to foodborne illness because their immune systems are not yet fully developed.1 Because of this, it can be harder for your baby to fight off an infection and it may even take them longer to get well. To help reduce their risk of getting sick, it is imperative to follow proper food safety techniques.

Read on to learn the best food safety practices to help keep your baby and toddler safe while eating.

Helping prevent foodborne illness

There are many ways to help prevent foodborne illness in babies and toddlers including:

Good hygiene: Hand washing, as well as adequate washing of all utensils and surfaces, is the most effective measure you can take in preventing foodborne illness in your baby or toddler.1

This includes proper cleaning and sterilization of bottles, sippy cups, breast pump parts, and other baby feeding supplies.

Avoiding higher-risk foods: Certain foods are more susceptible to bacterial growth and should not be given to your child. These include:

  • Unpasteurized dairy products, including milk and cheese
  • Raw and undercooked eggs and foods containing raw or undercooked eggs
  • Raw and undercooked meat and poultry
  • Raw and undercooked fish and shellfish
  • Unpasteurized juices (unless freshly squeezed yourself)
  • Raw sprouts
  • Honey: do not give to children less than 12 months old due to the risk of botulism, a foodborne illness2,3

Appropriate handing and storing of breastmilk and formula. Proper handling, storage and reheating of breastmilk, as well as proper handling and preparation of formula are critical to help prevent bacterial growth.5,6,7

Read more:

Safe Storage of Pumped Breastmilk

Everything You Need to Know about How to Prepare and Store Infant Formula

Other Food Safety Considerations


Babies and toddlers are at an increased risk of choking, so it’s important to provide age-appropriate textures and suitably sized foods.8

Depending on what stage of eating your child is at, make sure that any food you provide is either pureed, mashed, or a pea-sized (or thin strip) soft solid that is ‘smushable’ between your fingers.9 Once your toddler gets a little older and better at chewing and swallowing, firmer textures may be handled.

Learn about:

Preventing Choking in Infants and Toddlers

Introducing Solids: First Foods and Textures


Fish is a great source of lean protein, and many fattier fish also have beneficial omega-3 fatty acids. However, certain types of seafood have a high mercury content, which may affect your child’s developing nervous system.10

Higher mercury fish include: Canned albacore tuna, bigeye tuna, swordfish, King mackerel, shark, and tilefish.11

Lower mercury fish include: Salmon, cod, anchovy, sardines, haddock, scallop, freshwater trout, canned chunk light tuna, pollock, tilapia, and catfish.11

For families who eat meat, the US Food and Drug Administration recommends eating low mercury fish 2 to 3 times per week as part of a balanced diet. For more information on mercury in seafood, please see these FDA recommended guidelines.11

Tips on safely feeding your infant and toddler

Cook foods thoroughly

Cook foods, such as meats, poultry, and fish, to recommended internal temperatures to ensure harmful bacteria are killed.

Safe minimum cooking temperatures:

  • Cuts of beef, pork, veal, and lamb: 145 degrees
  • Ground meats: 160 degrees
  • Poultry: 165 degrees
  • Fish and shellfish: 145 degrees12

Learn about: How Can I Make my own Pureed Baby Food?

Don’t “double dip”

Feeding your baby straight from the jar can introduce bacteria from your baby’s mouth from the spoon into the food. Instead, spoon a small amount into a bowl and feed your baby from there. Throw out any food from the bowl that your baby did not eat.3

If using a pouch, squeeze the amount you’d like to feed your baby into a bowl, or squeeze a small amount onto a spoon. Feed from the bowl or spoon, making sure not to touch the tip of the pouch spout to the spoon, which would introduce bacteria to the pouch.

You can place whatever is left in the jar or pouch (that did not come into contact with your baby’s saliva) back in the refrigerator for later use.3 Most manufacturers say these leftovers can be kept for 1 to 2 days in the refrigerator before needing to be thrown out.

Read more: How to Store Baby Food

Timing is key

Be familiar with the recommended “safe times” for opened jarred and pouch baby food:

  • Opened, strained fruits or veggies: 2 to 3 days
  • Strained meats and eggs: 1 day
  • Veggie and meat combinations: 1 to 2 days
  • Homemade baby foods: 1 to 2 days1

Clean and sterilize

Be sure to wash bottles, sippy cups, feeding utensils, breast pump parts and other feeding supplies in hot, soapy water then rinse thoroughly.

Learn about: How to Properly Clean your Breast Pump

Follow proper handling and preparation of infant formula

  • Mix formula with safe water source
  • Prepared formula must be discarded within 1 hour after feeding your baby
  • Prepared formula that has not been given to baby can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours
  • An open container of ready to feed or concentrated formula should be covered, refrigerated, and discarded after 48 hours if not used

Read more:

Formula Preparation: What Type of Water Should I Use?

Everything You Need to Know About How to Prepare and Store Infant Formula

Help prevent choking

Take these precautions to minimize the risk of your child choking:

  • Foods that pose a risk of choking should be avoided. Examples include nuts, whole grapes, hot dogs, raw carrots, raisins, popcorn, and portions of food that are too large.
  • Stay close to your baby during meals to make sure they are tolerating foods appropriately
  • Make sure your baby or toddler is in a designated feeding chair like a highchair or booster seat
  • Allow baby to eat at their own, comfortable pace8,13

When in doubt, throw it out

If you can’t remember whether the leftovers are from two days ago or last week, throw it out.

Let’s Chat!

We know parenting often means sleepless nights, stressful days, and countless questions and confusion, and we want to support you in your feeding journey and beyond.

Our Happy Baby Experts are a team of lactation consultants and registered dietitian nutritionists certified in infant and maternal nutrition – and they’re all moms, too! They’re here to offer personalized support on our free, one-on-one, live chat platform Monday – Friday 8am-6pm (ET).

For more, please contact happy baby Experts who are mothers who care for their babies in matters of safe food. Visit


Dele Fapohunda

4 July 2023


SDG 2 aims to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture. In order to achieve it, we must also address underlying structural problems tied with poverty, lack of access to education, employment and health care, climate change, water and resource scarcity and others

Foodborne Illness have Causes and clinical expressions
Consuming tainted foods or drinks results in foodborne disease. Foods can be contaminated by a wide range of pathogens or disease-causing bacteria, leading to a wide range of foodborne illnesses.

The majority of foodborne illnesses are bacterial, viral, and parasitic infections. Other illnesses are food poisonings brought on by dangerous poisons or substances.

It should be noted that a large number of foodborne pathogens can also be acquired through contact with recreational or drinking water, with animals or their surroundings, or through person-to-person transmission.

Located here:
Foodborne Illness Symptoms
Foodborne illness causes
Foods Linked to Foodborne Disease

Foodborne Illness Symptoms
Vomiting and/or diarrhea are classic signs of a foodborne infection, and they normally persist 1 to 7 days. Other signs could occur as cramps, nausea, fever, joint/back aches, and fatigue



International trade among African countries witnessed a set back few year ago when  Kenya rejected 600 000 tons of maize from Uganda in 2018 due to poor quality and aflatoxin contamination. A report , by E Gourd  published in The Lancet early in 2023, further raised te alarm in Uganda. At the Kansas State University, researchers hinted of a rise i aflatoxin levels due to high temperatures ad drought, two conditions readily available in Africa. For more, please visit the 2 resources hereunder

Rising temps, drought likely to increase incidence of aflatoxin …

Kansas State University › news › stories › 2023/04
17 Apr 2023 — Researchers estimate losses to triple by 2040 under current trends. April 17, 2023. By Pat Melgares, K-State Research and Extension news service.

High concentrations of aflatoxin in Ugandan grains sparks …

The Lancet › lanonc › article › fulltext
by E Gourd2023 — “Kenya rejected 600 000 tons of maize from Uganda in 2018 due to poor quality and aflatoxin contamination,” he recalled, “amounting to $48·6 …
Dele Fapohunda
May 4, 2023




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Posted as presented

May 4 2023




These are aerial expressions of vegetative(hyphal)growth of fungi in the substrate. The substrate may be decaying log of wood, tree bark or other dead organic matter Although its macroscopic expressions are now used for all human activities, including nutrition and medicine, it was not originally designed for these purposes. It is designed to bring to the open the spores in order to allow multiplication. The actual organism lives organically under the ground or inside wood, reveals presence only by fruiting. The aerial growth is a reaction to environmental stress, most times, nutrient stress


Benefits /significance

  • A. As food for man e g Agaricus spp, Pleurotus spp

1.Rich in protein, vitamin (B, B2, & C) and has many minerals. The nutritional content is located within the chitinous cell wall. Has no sodium, and cholesterol

Water content- 90%

  1. Protein- 3-4% (retained by N2 content x 6.25)

Dry weight- 20-35%

3.Contains all essential amino acids. Lysine, inadequate in cereals, is in abundance in mushrooms

4.Fat- unsaturated fatty acids (healthy to man) are in abundance is Linoleic acid

5.Vitamins and rich in minerals- Thiamine (B1),  Riboflavin (B2), Ascorbic acid (C), Niacin & Biotin, P, K. Na

6 Fresh mushroom contains fibres and carbohydrates


  • B. As medicine

1.lowers cholesterol level, reduces heart and coronary disease

2.suppresses the growth of tumours

3 controls effect of diabetes  eg Plenrotus, Lentinula

4.reduces infections through the production of antioxidants eg Ganodema, Auricalaria,


  • C. In environmental remediation
  1. neutralizing of polluted          or acidic soil


2.degrade lignin, hemicelluloses like  the basidiomycete white rot (lignin degrading) fungi.  The white rot fungi  can degrade lignin & hemicelluloses leading to the wood turning white, a process called bio-bleaching

3.break down poly aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH)e.g. Phanerochaetes chrysosporium and Coriolus versicolor– both produce extra cellular enzymes


  • D.Ancient people linked mushroom to the gods,
  • E.No arable land is needed for their cultivation
  • F.Agricultural  waste can be  turned to fertili


Edible mushrooms include-Agaricus bisporus (button mushroom), Pleurotus spp, Volvariella volvacea, (paddy straw mushroom)Lentinus edoides(shiitake). Others include Coprinus spp, Auricularia polytricha and the chanterrelle

Poisonous one are usually identified by their deep odour and excessive pigmentation(colouration) Examples are  Amanita phalloides(death cap),Coenocybe filaris, and Cortinarius species.



Mushrooms are generally found in the Division basidiomycota although a few are located in the Ascomycota

They are mostly  saprophytes, symbionts, parasites, but they mostly combine at least two of these i.e symbionts also have saprophytic tendencies. Parasites change to saprophyte after host’s death.

Saprophytes are on dead wood, soil and decaying leaves and other organic materials. The margin and pileus can be used to describe a typical mushroom. The margins  can be Smooth, Crenate, striate or wavy . The pileus can also be smooth, velvety, raised scales, having patches or flat scales.

Looking for mushroom in the wild is called MUSHROOMING or MUSHROOM HUNTING It is the  practice of foraying for mushrooms in a defined area or habitat. They however, can live in diverse microhabitats within a particular ecosystem conferring limitations on their species diversity and number of stands.

The compost is pasteurized to kill the pathogens.

=In mushroom cultivation,  a form of single cell protein is being produced  because agricultural waste is recycled into food(SCP) and the remains serve as organic manure . About 3 weeks is needed to attain harvest of mushrooms. The mushroom grows in “flushes”(sing=flush) which is defined as the group of mushroom ready for harvest. Harvesting of mushroom is also called cropping. Flushes appear at approximately 7 days intervals until 4 or 5 flushes are harvested and the substrate is deemed spent and unproductive. At different stages of maturity the grower can harvest buttons(having unopened caps); or cups (with open caps) sometimes curving up and revealing full gills. 

The significance of mushrooms whether edible or poisonous, is rested on the culinary and medicinal advantage as well as their morbidity and mortality attractions when consumed by the uninformed. The species come in various colours, shapes, together with pileus and stipe configurations.

Amanita phalloides(death cap), Conocybe filaria and Cortinarius sp (web cap) are examples of poisonous mushroom. Edible  types include  Agaricus bisporus, Pleurotus species, Volvariella volvaceaLentinus eloides,  and Boletus sp.


Prospective  mushroom hunters must adopt the following safety rules before embracing any mushroom at all

1 For a confirmed  amateur, totally inexperienced in mushrooming, it is adviseable to stay away from any species  considered difficult to classify.

2 Ensure multiple sources for confirmation of status, before attempting to eat.

3.Do not rush at ‘look- alikes’. Some mushrooms that are considered edible in one region may have some similar forms which may draw an inexperienced person to them for consumption

4 At first, it is advisable to consume only a little of a fairly unclassified mushroom. Then watch reactions over time, even after, enough expert opinion considered such as safe

5.A mushroom that is very attractive in colour is  most likely a candidate for poisonous groups. Equally, those with strong odour must be avoided at first contact.

6 Most edible ones fall under ‘Little Brown Mushrooms’(LBM) group making any similar species, even when not yet confirmed, to be suspected as edible. The danger of such can be avoided by exercising great caution.

7 Avoid mushrooms that grow profusely in heavily polluted areas. They are accumulators of heavy metals, making them unsafe.


Dele Fapohunda

May 4 2023


The Canadian Institute of Food Safety (CIFS)     has released a rich report on types of FOOD CONTAMINANTS. It is a must read for young and established food safety experts and activists. It was reported on October 6, 2022

Please read on

Types of Food Contamination

Most food safety hazards that cause food contamination fall into one of three categories: biological, physical or chemical contamination

Whether you own, manage or work at a food business – or if you’re preparing and serving food at home – it’s important to understand what the potential food safety hazards and risks are. Food contamination is one such risk. In this resource, we discuss what food contamination is, the different types and sources of contamination, and preventative steps to take to ensure food safety.

What is food contamination?

Food contamination refers to when something gets into food that shouldn’t be there, thereby making the food unsafe to eat. Food-borne illness and its business-destroying cousin, the food-borne illness outbreak, are caused by food contamination.

While there are many food safety hazards that can cause food contamination, most fall into one of three categories: biological, physical or chemical contamination. In many cases, a single hazard can introduce more than one type of contamination to food.

Types of food contamination


Biological contamination occurs when food becomes contaminated by living organisms or the substances they produce. This includes biological matter produced by humans, rodents, insects and microorganisms. Biological contamination is the leading cause of food-borne illness and food poisoning*, and a common cause of food spoilage and food waste. There are six types of microorganisms that can cause food-borne illness: bacteria, viruses, parasites, protozoa, fungi and prions.

Most food-borne illnesses in Canada are caused by bacteria or viruses, with the most common being:

  • Norovirus
  • Listeria
  • Salmonella
  • E. coli
  • Campylobacter

Food-borne illness occurs when disease-causing microorganisms, also called pathogens, get into food and multiply to unsafe levels before being eaten. This can happen remarkably quickly; in conditions ideal for bacterial growth, one single-cell bacteria can become two million in just seven hours.

Bacteria and other pathogens thrive in foods that are:

  • Moist
  • High in protein or starch
  • Neutral in acidity

Foods that meet these criteria are called potentially hazardous or high-risk foods. All high-risk foods are teeming with pathogens and other bacteria; it is your responsibility to stop bacteria from multiplying to unsafe levels and, where possible, to destroy them via the cooking process.

To slow down the growth of bacteria and prevent food safety risks, you need to follow food safety best practices designed to control bacterial growth through proper food handling techniques, rigorous cleaning and sanitizing procedures and time and temperature control of food.

Food poisoning occurs when specific toxins are consumed, such as those produced by Salmonella, Staphylococcus or Listeria. Microbial toxins are extremely potent toxins that can disable the immune system and damage tissues if they are consumed. Many microbial toxins are heat-resistant, so even if bacteria are destroyed in the cooking process, the toxins remain in the food and can cause violent, almost-instantaneous symptoms.

To minimize the risk of biological food contamination occurring in your food business, always:

  • Keep high-risk foods (e.g. meat, poultry, dairy, eggs) out of the Temperature Danger Zone**
  • Purchase, store, thaw, prepare, cook and serve high-risk foods properly
  • Regularly clean and sanitize all food contact surfaces and equipment
  • Maintain good overall hygiene and sanitation of the premises
  • Maintain high standards of personal hygiene (and ensure all employees do the same)

*The terms “food-borne illness” and “food poisoning” differ slightly in meaning but are often used interchangeably to describe any food-related illness caused by microorganisms or their byproducts.

**In Manitoba, the Temperature Danger Zone is 5°C – 60°C (41°F – 140°F). In all other provinces and territories in Canada, it is 4°C – 60°C (40°F – 140°F).


Physical contamination occurs when a physical object enters food at some stage of the production or preparation process. Physical objects in food can be a choking hazard and often introduce biological contaminants as well. Even if the object is not likely to injure your customer, finding an object in their food can be very distressing for a customer (who knows that harmful microorganisms on the object could make them ill).

Common examples of physical contaminants in food businesses include:

  • Hair
  • Fingernails
  • Bandages
  • Jewellery
  • Broken glass, staples
  • Plastic wrap/packaging
  • Dirt from unwashed fruit and vegetables
  • Pests, pest droppings, rodent hair

To minimize the risk of physical food contamination occurring in your food business, always:

  • Wear hair neatly tied back or wear a hair/beard net
  • Keep jewellery to a minimum
  • When necessary, wear brightly coloured bandages that can be easily seen if they fall off
  • Throw out and replace cracked, chipped or broken dishware, glassware and equipment
  • Use a plastic or metal scoop for ice (never use the glass!)
  • Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly
  • Establish pest prevention and control procedures as part of your Food Safety Plan


Chemical contamination occurs when food produces or comes into contact with toxic chemicals, which can lead to chemical food poisoning. Chemical contaminants fall into one of two categories: natural and artificial.

Common chemical contaminants include:

  • Cleaning products (e.g. detergent, sanitizer)
  • Pesticides/herbicides
  • Toxic chemicals in metals and plastic
  • Preservatives
  • Naturally-occurring toxins

Naturally-occurring toxins are toxic compounds that are produced by living organisms, some of which are staples of the human diet (e.g. shellfish, potatoes, fish). These toxins are not harmful to the organisms themselves but can be harmful to us if we eat them.

Minimal contamination with natural toxins might not lead to illness, but Food Handlers should be aware of which foods produce toxins and take all reasonable precautions to ensure that food is safe for consumption. Potatoes, for example, produce glycoalkaloids that are toxic to humans. The majority of these toxins are contained in or just under the peel, and in any eyes or sprouts on the potato. Green skin can indicate the presence of toxins, so be sure to remove any eyes, sprouts or green skin if you decide to use potatoes that have greened or sprouted.

There are many ways that food can become contaminated by artificial/synthetic chemicals in a commercial kitchen. Food Handlers can accidentally cause chemical contamination if they:

  • Don’t store cleaning products and other chemicals properly
  • Use too much detergent or sanitizer to clean food preparation surfaces, glassware, dishes or cutlery (follow the manufacturer’s instructions!)
  • Don’t rinse surfaces, glassware, dishes or cutlery properly after cleaning and sanitizing (if applicable)
  • Don’t properly wash fruits and vegetables to remove pesticides
  • Use kitchen equipment or containers made from materials that are not suitable for food or not designed to be reused (use only food-grade plastic and metals)
  • Use pest control products (e.g. spray, poisonous bait) improperly

To minimize the risk of chemical contamination occurring in your food business, always:

  • Label and store chemicals separately from food
  • Use the appropriate chemical for the job you’re doing
  • Follow the chemical manufacturer’s instructions with regards to dilution, contact time and water temperature
  • Use chemical pest control products with extreme care or outsource pest eradication to a professional pest control service


Cross-contamination is the accidental transfer of contaminants from one surface or substance to another, usually as a result of improper handling procedures. In a food setting, the term refers to the transfer of contaminants from a surface, object or person to food. Cross-contamination usually refers to biological contamination but can also be physical or chemical.

Cross-contamination in a food business often occurs as a result of:

  • Food Handlers (e.g. microorganisms from sweat, sneezing/coughing, hands, hair, clothing)
  • Improper food handling techniques (e.g. reusing cutting boards or utensils for raw and cooked food or for different types of food)
  • Improper cleaning and sanitizing (e.g. not properly rinsing cleaning chemicals from preparation surfaces, dishware, glassware or equipment)
  • Improper food storage (e.g. storing raw meat on shelves above ready-to-eat food)
  • Improper waste disposal (e.g. allowing garbage containers to overflow)
  • Pests

Cross-contamination can also pose a risk to customers with food allergies, as trace amounts of an allergen can be transferred in the same way that microorganisms can. Even trace amounts of an allergen can cause a serious allergic reaction — in some cases, a lethal reaction. As a food business owner, manager or employee, it is your responsibility to serve customers, including those with food allergies, a safe meal.

To minimize the risk of cross-contamination occurring in your food business, always:

  • Move around the business in accordance with the Food Safety Plan (e.g. change soiled kitchen clothing before moving from raw food to ready-to-eat prep stations)
  • Cover and store raw food on shelves below cooked or ready-to-eat food in the refrigerator (read more on preventing contamination in the fridge)
  • Use separate equipment or utensils to prepare raw and cooked foods
  • Use separate equipment or utensils to prepare different types of foods
  • Prepare allergen-free meals separately
  • Establish allergen management procedures as part of your Food Safety Plan
  • Maintain high standards of personal hygiene
  • Wash hands frequently using the correct hand washing technique
  • Handle and dispose of food scraps and waste properly (e.g. ensure garbage containers are sealed and stored away from food)

Pests deserve a special mention in this regard, as they are notorious sources of cross-contamination in food businesses. Rodents, flies and cockroaches carry untold numbers of disease-causing bacteria and other pathogens on their bodies, in their droppings and in urine and saliva, including Salmonella, E. coli and Listeria.

As such, pest prevention and control is vitally important in the workplace. Download the CIFS Guide to Pest Prevention and Control to find out more about the risks that common pests pose to a food business, how to prevent pests from entering your business and what to do if they get in.


The best way to prevent food contamination in your business

The food safety best practices listed above are by no means an exhaustive list of everything you must do to prevent food contamination and its consequences in the food business you own, manage or work in.

Everyone who works with food has a legal responsibility to take all reasonable measures to protect the public you serve from health risks like food-borne illness and food allergies. It’s also in your best interest to do so, considering that your income is tied directly to the success of the business.

The best way to prevent food contamination and ensure food safety is through education and training. Fully trained Food Handlers know what they need to do to control food safety hazards and understand that there are consequences, for everyone, to taking shortcuts when it comes to food safety.

The Canadian Institute of Food Safety (CIFS) provides online training, continuing education and resources to thousands of Canadian food workers as part of our mission to reduce food-borne illness and other food safety risks in Canada.

Source=Canadian Institute of Food Safety (CIFS)

All credits and comments to CIFS


Dele Fapohunda

Nov 19, 2022


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