According to the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (US FSIS) food safety is defined as “A suitable product which when consumed orally either by a human or an animal does not cause health risk to consumers.”
There are three types of health risks that can be caused by food:
1. Chemical – improperly stored, handled or used chemicals can be a source of contamination. Examples of chemicals used on farm include fertilizers, synthetic and non-synthetic pesticides, cleaning agents, fuel, etc.
2. Physical – anything that is not meant to be in the produce. Examples include screws, glass, staples, wood, insects, etc.
3. Biological (Microbial) – could be viruses, bacteria, parasites, or fungi, that cause illnesses and sometimes even death. (Bacteria that are disease causing are referred to as pathogens. Illnesses caused by eating contaminated foods are referred to a foodborne illnesses or food poisoning). It is important to consider and understand all three sources of potential contamination, but biological contamination is the biggest concern. This is in part because the human sensory system cannot see, taste, smell or feel pathogens or viruses, whereas we can often detect chemical contamination through smell or taste and physical contamination through touch or feel.