How to develop your foreign object register

A foreign matter register can help your food business manage potential physical hazards. Like any type of hazard control, when you can identify where potential problems may occur, you can put sufficient mitigation strategies in place. In this post, find out the what, the why and the how of implementing a foreign object register in your food business.

What is a foreign matter register?

A foreign matter register is a list of all potential sources of foreign contamination that may exist in your food business. No two food businesses are same so your register has to be unique to your business.

Foreign objects in production

Before we get into how to develop your foreign matter register, it is important to first define the types of potential foreign objects that need to be included. In this context, we are only referring to hazards that exist within the production or manufacturing environment. Here are the most common:

  • Glass
  • Hard plastics
  • Metal items
  • Wood
  • Soft Plastics
  • Cardboard

You may wish to further categorize or rate your list based on the potential to cause harm to the consumer. Check out this resource to see what is defined as a consumer choking hazard.

Identification is the key to control

If we don’t know the weak points in our system how can they be controlled? Identifying potential foreign objects is the first step in being able to eliminate or control the hazard.  Outside of making perfect business sense, your business may be required by an external GFSI recognized standard to develop a foreign object register. You may also know these are being “glass registers” or “hard plastic registers”. The foreign matter register goes one step further to include other materials eg. Metal, wood.

Preparing your register

  1. Walk around your production or manufacturing area and identify potential foreign objects. These are items that have the potential to break or shatter into product or are considered to be loose or unsecured items. Loose items have the potential to fall into or be placed into food products.
  2. Record the item, category and location in your foreign object register.

Strategies for control

Once you have developed your register I suggest that you allocate suitable control measures to each of the foreign objects. For example, how do you minimize a shattered light globe from ending up in your product? You would make sure that all light globes are protected or you could only use shatter proof globes.

The use of wooden pallets is common throughout the food industry. A strategy of controlling the potential for wood could be to use pallet liners or avoid the use in production areas. For loose metal items you may like to implement a ‘count in’ ‘count out’ process or implement a controlled items list.


When you have documented your foreign object register, it doesn’t end there.  Make it a routine activity to check the condition of all the items on your list. You can do this as part of pre-operation checks for each area or other routine inspections. Like anything to do with verification, ensure adequate records are kept including any corrective actions taken.

Have your say

Do you have a foreign object register in your food business? Can you recommend other item categories to include on the list? Share your thoughts with the HACCP Mentor community by leaving a comment below.

2 thoughts on “How to develop your foreign object register”

  1. Some items in the foreign object register will highly unlikely end up in the product. But there are things you get back on a regular base from a customer complaining.
    Should, therefore, this foreign object register not be categorized in likely and unlikely

    1. Amanda Evans-Lara

      Thanks for your question Joan. If you can show through a risk assessment that the foreign matter will not end up in the product, by all means, exclude it. But in saying that, it really depends on what your certification standard requires.

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