There are hundreds of spoiler out there that could destroy your meal. Food gets corrupt by different substances in various way that includes biological, physical or chemical contaminants. A physical contaminant is one of the many following contaminants which I am going to outline in this article.  

Before that one should know, food contamination is a global issue that causes severe health and financial damage. World Health Organization estimates, around 600 million people get sick, and 420,000 people die every year by eating contaminated foods.

Besides, children under five years are at greater risk. According to the report, 40% of all foodborne diseases occur among children with 125,000 death every year.

Moreover, it is the primary reason for diarrhea globally. Statistics from the world health body say, each year 550 million people fall sick, and 230,000 people pass away because of contaminated foods.

What is food contamination

Food contamination means food corruption by any substance, either physical, chemical, or biological.

Physical contaminants play a major role in this process. You may have already noticed a human hair or a plastic material in your foods during taking a meal. Consequently, you got angry or even refused to pay bills if it was in a restaurant.

These food contaminants are so often that we sometimes don’t pay attention. However, it risks physical injury and disease occurrence. Therefore, it is wise to know what the physical contaminants are and what to do with it.

What is physical contaminant

Physical contamination refers to the mixing of a foreign body with foods. That includes hair, nails, rats pop, and dead cockroaches, flies, and beetles. Moreover, steel, wool, and a piece of plastics also are commonly cause physical food contamination.

Those physical objects that cause contamination are called physical contaminants. Physical contamination mostly happens accidentally. Nevertheless, intentional contamination is also common, especially in developing countries.

Unintentional consumption of physical contaminants could injure a person. Furthermore, they carry viruses, bacteria, and parasites that frequently cause infectious diseases.

Following contaminants are one of the common physical contaminant which spoils foods

These are the most common types of physical contaminants that we repeatedly observe in food.

Human Hair

Hair is probably the most frequent foreign object we find in foods. Imagine you went to a restaurant to have your favorite dishes. When the meal was served, you discovered a tiny piece of hair. We all know what would be your reaction.

Besides, hair is difficult to digest and unpleasant to eat. We even found rare intestinal obstruction caused by hair.

Moreover, hair carries deadly bacteria such as staphylococcus aureus, parasites, and viruses. Those organisms stay alive and can cause infection even after cocking.

Plastic materials

Plastic particles are the biggest threat to food and environmental security. It not only contaminates humans’ foods but animals also are the victim.

In March 2019, a 15 feet long whale was found dead in the beach of the Philippines containing 88 pounds of plastics in its stomach. The poor whale was unable to digest or pass out those plastic bags that cost its’ life.

Plastics are everywhere. It even reached the deepest part of the earth. I say the 21st century is the plastic century. We are replacing every equipment we use on a daily basis with it. Surprisingly, our life-saving drugs are contained in plastic containers.

Plastics can contaminate foods both in physical and chemical form. Large pieces of plastics we often find in foods that come from packaging materials or our daily equipment.

It doesn’t decay over time nor could be vanished from the environment. As a result, it not only contaminate foods but also reduces our crops’ growing lands.

The scientific community is already warning to reduce the use of this harmful element. According to a new study published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, there is every possibility that humans are consuming 39000 to 52000 microplastic components each year. Microplastics are less than 5mm and most of them are not even visible in naked eyes.

However, the health impact is still unknown. Nevertheless, a new study suggests, it compromises our immune system and deteriorates gut health. Many plastic compounds are toxic to the human body. Therefore, it is presumed to be one of the major precursors of cancer.

Unfortunately, it is quite impossible to prevent plastic from contaminating foods. So, it is the number one physical food contaminant.

Dead cockroach

Cockroaches are omnivorous. In addition to that, they are universally available. Therefore, it is surprisingly common to find alive or dead cockroaches or body parts in foods.

I saw in a movie where 3 bandits tried to avoid a restaurant bill by adding a dead cockroach on the meal. It’s because cockroaches are dirty insects and annoying.

More importantly, they can carry at least 33 bacteria and 6 parasites in their legs and stomach. Therefore it is obvious that cockroaches spread infectious diseases by contaminating foods.

Rats are super contaminants

Rats and mice not only destroy foods by eating them but also defecate on them. As a consequence, it is not rear to discover rat feces on stored foods. In fact, dead rats often found in foods in restaurants.

Rat: Physical contaminant

Therefore, unhygienic food processing and packaging may make you eat rat pops. Besides, they are potent carriers of dangerous diseases. That is how they contaminate foods physically as well as biologically


It is extremely difficult to prevent ants from sugary foods. When they invade foods, some of them get trapped and die, making the meal contaminated.

Ants don’t pose a severe health threat though. Nevertheless, if they visit dirty places before invading the kitchen, they could cross-contaminate foods with pathogens.

Small pieces of concrete or stone

If your main diet is rice, you may familiar with crunching small pieces of stone or bricks during mastication.

In many countries where the food regulatory authority is weak, greedy business owners intentionally adulterate rice with these tiny particles.

They are very hard to find before cocking as they are tiny and the color resembles the rice seeds. The health impact is still unknown. However, they cause a sandy sensation and many elderly people risk breaking teeth by crunching this hard particle.

Metals and wooden pieces

I often notice small pieces of metals or wood on the foods. This contamination generally happens from food packaging and processing. Although they rarely spread disease, however, they can cause injury when eaten unintentionally.

Flour beetles and weevils

Weevils and flour beetles are well-known physical contaminants. They usually contaminate foods from the storehouses. They eat and destroy flour, rice, pasta, and cereals.

Red flour beetles are the most common insects that are found in stored rice and flour.

You may have seen that some of your stored rice or other grains have small pores and collapse on gentle pressing. That’s because those insects already took care of them.

These insects typically contaminate foods with their legs, wings, and skin. Although they destroy foods, and it is rather costly, disease spreading is literally unknown.

What to do to prevent physical food contaminants

Practically, total prevention is not viable. Because a food item involves many people and materials before it finally reaches the stomach. However, a little effort is still beneficial to minimize the contamination.

  • Check thoroughly before buying anything
  • keep your kitchen clean
  • Use headcover when cocking
  • Always keep foods covered
  • Don’t store foods for a long time

Few last words

Physical food contamination can happen virtually by anything. Once I dropped my mobile phone while talking with someone during eating. However, these are the most frequent and annoying physical contaminants one should be aware of.

Categories: Health

Dr Mazharul Islam

Dr. Mazharul Islam acquired a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery from Sylhet MAG Osmany Medical College and trained in internal medicine at Dhaka Medical College, Bangladesh. He is a practicing and motivated Medical doctor. He is exclusively working to eliminate superstitious belief from the society

1 Comment

AffiliateLabz · February 16, 2020 at 10:29 am

Great content! Super high-quality! Keep it up! 🙂

Give your opinion here

%d bloggers like this: