Chemical hazards are substances that either occur naturally or are added during food production or handling and can cause adverse health effects when ingested or inhaled (European Court of Auditors, 2019). Adverse health effects are changes in the health, growth, behaviour or development of an organism that impair its ability to develop or survive (European Food Safety Authority, n.d.-b).
Human body can be exposed to chemical contaminants through various ways. The most important route of exposure, in terms of food safety, is the gastrointestinal tract. Substances from food that passes through it, are absorbed, so possible chemical contaminants can be carried first to the liver, then enter the bloodstream and get transported around the body (Safefood 360°, 2013). Other routes of exposure are the skin and the lungs. Chemical contaminants may affect a particular organ or tissue, e.g. brain, liver or kidney and in order to cause death, a toxin must interfere with a process in the body that is essential for survival (Safefood 360°, 2013).
The presence of chemical hazards in food is usually not immediately apparent as that of bacteria and other biological hazards (Lawley et al., 2012). The exposure to low levels of toxic chemical substances over long periods of time is much more of concern, because it can lead to chronic diseases or even cancer (Lawley et al., 2012).