A doctor shares exactly why you should be extremely careful about human hair getting into your food.
Imagine you’ve taken a lunch or dinner break at your favourite restaurant, just to get a taste of your favourite dish. Your order comes, and you tuck into that yummy meal. But midway through, you find a teeny-tiny piece of hair in your food.
We know what your response would be: YUCK! And we thoroughly agree. It’s gross, and you just shouldn’t have to go through it. But the fact of life is that hair ends up in our food quite often and quite accidentally, whether it’s in a restaurant or at home. Come on, admit it, you’ve discovered your dear mom’s hair in the delicious dal at least once or twice?
It’s still okay if you identify the hair in your dish in time. But what if you can’t? What if you accidentally eat it? There’s no way you an get away with it without repercussions. This is the reason restaurants, bakeries and food processing units have to follow hair control measures. Ingesting hair is just not healthy.
A very hairy issue
Human hair is made up of the protein keratin, which also makes up the outer layer of the skin and nails. In itself, keratin might not pose a problem. But the truth is that, besides making you feel nauseated, hair can lead to contamination in foods. It is one of the leading physical contaminants in food, along with stones, metal pieces, insect parts, rodent droppings etc.
All of these can cause physical harm as well as result in foodborne illnesses like cholera, typhoid, jaundice etc. To ensure food safety the FSSAI has established hygiene and sanitation guidelines as per Schedule 4 of the regulations, which mentions that human hair must be controlled from falling into exposed foods in eateries as well as in food processing and manufacturing plants.
Human hair is termed a physical as well as a microbiological contaminant, because it can lead to the growth of microorganisms in the food. Oil, sweat, residue of hair treatment chemicals and shampoos, dyes or any other organic matter sticking to the hair becomes a breeding ground for pathogens when left in processed foods for long periods of time.
A report published by the National Institute of Science, Technology, and Development Studies, New Delhi, on human hair waste states that hair could contain a number of toxic chemical contaminants. These contaminants reach the hair from the environment, and so these same toxic substances can reach food from human hair.
Health risks and precautions
You can choke on hair in food, or it can make your vomit. But that apart, human hair can transmit ringworm as well as fungal infections if a person is infected by these. Staph aureus, as it’s often called, is a type of bacteria that can be found on the skin and hair as well as in the noses and throats of people and animals.
Getting a bacterial infection is just not what you’d want, so it’s always best to take some precautions. Make sure anybody who cooks for you wears hairnets, headbands, caps, beard covers or other effective hair restraints. If a restaurant is known for faulty safety or hygiene standards, don’t go there (even if it means you won’t be able to taste a dish you love), because prevention is better than cure any day.