Food Safety and Protection

Demystifying FSMA Food Hazard Identification

Food hazards and hazard identification are terms that should be understood by anyone who works in the food industry. It is common for these terms to be used in not only food legislation but in customer requirements and GFSI recognised standards. In this post learn more about the FSMA requirements for food hazard identification.

Food Hazards

Food companies are not generally in the business of hurting their customers.  Therefore, having a full understanding of “what can go wrong” with the food that you produce or handle is essential.  It is useful to firstly understand what is a food hazard? A food hazard can be defined as being any biological, chemical or physical agent, found in food, that has the potential to cause harm, injury or illness.

I have previously provided examples of different types of food hazards that fall into the categories of microbiological, chemical and physical food hazards. To revisit this article please click here.

Demystifying FSMA Hazard Identification

The basis of HACCP is to identify food hazards in your food business. This is not a new concept and is deeply embedded into the fundamentals of SQF, BRC, FSSC22000 and other GFSI recognised standards.

In the USA, FSMA regulates this requirement through §117.130(b)*.  An excerpt of the regulation is provided below:

(b) Hazard identification. The hazard identification must consider:

(1) Known or reasonably foreseeable hazards that include:

(i) Biological hazards, including microbiological hazards such as parasites, environmental pathogens, and other pathogens;

(ii) Chemical hazards, including radiological hazards, substances such as pesticide and drug residues, natural toxins, decomposition, unapproved food or color additives, and food allergens; and

(iii) Physical hazards (such as stones, glass, and metal fragments); and

(2) Known or reasonably foreseeable hazards that may be present in the food for any of the following reasons:

(i) The hazard occurs naturally;

(ii) The hazard may be unintentionally introduced; or

(iii) The hazard may be intentionally introduced for purposes of economic gain.

*For further clarification on your individual compliance obligations, please refer to “Title 21, Chapter I, Subchapter B, Part 117, Subpart C – Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls, §117.130(b)”. To view this reference, please click here.

Food Hazard Identification

When you undertake the process of hazard identification, you must do so based on your own experience, on illness data, from scientific reports and from other information.  This five (5) minute video can help you get started in different types of hazard identification methods.



Key Actions for FSMA Compliance

  • You must identify known or reasonably foreseeable hazards
  • You must identify hazards that may:
    • Occur naturally
    • Be unintentionally introduced
    • Be intentionally introduced for economic gain
  • Food Hazard identification categories include:
    • Biological
    • Chemical
    • Radiological
    • Food Allergens
    • Physical
  • Food hazard identification must be documented (as part of the hazard analysis process). Download a template here.
  • Food Hazards need to be identified for each type of food:
    • Manufactured by your food facility
    • Processed by your food facility
    • Packed by your food facility
    • Held at your food facility

Implementing hazard identification and assessment

If you would like to know more about how to identify and evaluate hazards in your food business register your interest for web training on “Completing a FSMA Hazard Analysis” by adding your details below:


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