Physical contamination & foreign body identification

When a physical contamination issue hits, you need rapid, reliable and accurate analysis. Our technical experts understand the urgency and will give you the information you need to take appropriate action.


Consumer complaints related to physical contamination, such as plastic contamination and physical food contamination or the detection and identification of a foreign body have the potential to damage brand reputation. Whether it’s a fragment of plastic or traces of particulates, this type of discovery raises questions about product safety and threatens consumer loyalty. It demands immediate attention. You need to know what has been found and how it got there. Only then can you decide whether the best course of action is consumer reassurance, a production fix or a product recall. And we can help.


Our experienced analysts will carry out a series of targeted investigations to find the root cause of the issue, quickly and accurately. Key insights include:


  • Identity of the physical contamination / foreign body detection
  • Confirmation that it has been in contact with food
  • Possible origins of the problem
  • Whether the incident occurred in the consumer’s home

Raman RD 4459 HR Istock 911834392 2E0B0515

Physical food contaminants


Our rapid and routine procedures can identify common physical contaminants in food and foreign material contaminants including:

  • Glass
  • Plastics
  • Metal
  • Hairs and fibres
  • Meat residues and bone fragments
  • Faecal matter
  • Tablets and particulates
  • Mineral fragments
  • Insects and Larvae
  • Haze in beverages
  • Deposits
  • Discolouration

Along with different types of contamination in food and direct food contamination we can also undertake a saliva analysis test, which can indicate if the sample has been in the clients mouth. Additionally, we can analyse if a stain or residue is blood


  • Confocal Raman Microscope
  • Light Microscopy
  • Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM)
  • X-ray Microanalysis (XMA)
  • Thermal Probe-MS
  • X-ray Microfluorescence (XMF)
  • RAMAN Spectroscopy
  • Takayama (blood test)
  • FTIR Spectroscopy analysis (Fourier-Transform InfraRed (FTIR) Spectroscopy)
  • Differential Scanning Calorimetry (DSC)
  • X-ray Tomography
  • Cryo Scanning Electron Microscopy
  • Image Analysis
  • Phosphatase (cooked meat test)
  • Phadebas (saliva test)

Foreign material reference library


We can also work with you to establish a robust reference system of potential physical contaminants and foreign bodies. All you need to do is provide us with samples of materials that may come into contact with your product during the manufacturing process. Using a range of different food contamination and foreign body detection techniques, we then build a searchable reference library for future root cause investigations.

Frequently asked questions


    RSSL offer a range of tests for the presence and identification of foreign bodies. The techniques used will depend on the nature of the material identified. All investigations start with light microscopy and from there we then determine additional techniques which are most suitable to support with identification. For example, we can determine metals by using SEM EDS. And we can establish the grade of stainless steel, for example, SAE 304 stainless steel can be identified as this steel contains both chromium and nickel metals in specific percentages.  We can also identify glass as we have a UKAS accredited method of elemental analysis which makes it possible to determine if glass is from industrial or domestic sources. For more complex analysis we can also use Fourier transform infrared (FT-IR) or RAMAN spectroscopic techniques, which can indicate the identity of any organic or chemical contaminants.


    RSSL has extensive experience in analysis of haze (suspended small or colloidal particles) in drinks, we can investigate and confirm how they came to be there. Our technical experts would start the investigation by trying to isolate the suspended particles and then complete a suite of analytical testing using light microscopy in the first instance, then characterising the particles using Fourier transform infrared (FT-IR) or RAMAN spectroscopic techniques. We have also found that SEM (Scanning Electron Microscopy) can help to determine the composition of the haze particles with our food and beverage contaminant testing.


    RSSL can help you to identify the source of a contamination, supporting internal root cause investigations. When an investigation undertaken, it is preferable to analyse a reference sample (that is suspected to be the source of contamination) against the test item to strengthen the results of the investigation. In addition we can build a database of materials from within the factory, this can be used for potential future investigations.  To find out more or to discuss your requirements, please contact our customer services team.


    Yes we can support with this. RSSL provides an Emergency Response Service (ERS), an annual membership service, which gives you access to our technical experts and rapid analytical support 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Our ERS can support you in circumstances such as customer complaints, product tamper, physical contamination in food, counterfeiting or processing and packaging failures. We can deliver results in 24 hours or 2 days dependent on urgency. To find out more you can download our ERS brochure and contact our customer service team.

24/7 Emergency Response Service

From contamination, product tampering and allergen contamination to packaging failure, our 24-hour Emergency Response Service (ERS) helps our members make critical decisions at the right time

Related Resources

White Paper
Foreign Bodies
Food & Consumer Goods
Foreign bodies: Investigation and identification
Emergency Response Service Thumbnail
Food & Consumer Goods
Emergency response service (ERS)
Food Safety & Quality Services
Food & Consumer Goods
Food safety & quality services

Contact us

Need to get in touch? Please complete the enquiry form or call us on:

Switchboard: +44 (0)118 918 4000

Customer Services: +44 (0)118 918 4076

We value your trust when sharing your personal data with us. We always treat your data in a fair and respectful manner limited to the purpose above mentioned. If you would like to know more about how we handle your data, please read our privacy notice.