The Ultimate Food Safety Dictionary
Most people have a basic understanding of what food safety means (and what rules to follow), but if you work in the foodservice business you need more than a simple layman’s understanding.
Learning the lingo is a good first step, and fortunately for you, we’ve assembled a comprehensive list of terms you will encounter (and their definitions) as you study up.
Food Safety Dictionary of Terminologies
Biological Contamination – Food that has come into contact with a biological substance or pathogen that may cause harm when consumed.
Blast Chiller – A refrigerator used in commercial kitchens. It’s equipped with a fan that blows chilled air over food to cool it down more rapidly.
Chafing Dish – A kind of stove that uses indirect heat to warm food. A heat source heats a pan of water, which in turn heats the pan of food placed directly above.
Chemical Contamination – Food that has come into contact with a chemical substance or toxin that may harm a human when consumed.
Contamination – When a food item comes into contact with a potentially harmful substance or environment.
Cross-Contamination – When two foods that should be kept separate come into contact with each other in a manner that will endanger a person’s health. E.g. raw meat dripping onto a salad.
FDA – Food and Drug Administration. U.S. government agency responsible for protecting public health by ensuring the safety and quality of the nation’s food and medical products.
FIFO – First In, First Out. Rule that emphasizes using up older ingredients first before using fresh stock.
Five-Second Rule – A myth that it’s still safe to consume food if it touches a contaminated surface for less than five seconds. This belief has since been debunked.
Food Allergy – A condition that causes allergic reactions when exposed to specific food types.
Food Poisoning – A type of foodborne illness caused by consuming specific toxins in contaminated food. Often confused with foodborne illness.
Food Spoilage – When food becomes unfit for human consumption due to excessive bacteria growth.
Food Temperature Danger Zone – The temperature range between 40 °F and 140°F is where bacteria grow fastest on food and pose the most risk to humans. Food should be stored outside of this range whenever possible when not being consumed.
Foodborne Illness – An illness caused by eating food contaminated with pathogens. Often confused with food poisoning.
FSIS – Food Safety and Inspection Service. A U.S. government agency that oversees the safety and quality of commercially supplied meat, poultry and dairy.
HACCP – Acronym for Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points. A systematic approach to food production that reduces the risk of physical, chemical or biological contamination.
Health Inspection – Conducted to assess whether a restaurant meets food hygiene and safety best practices, and to enforce change if they are not.
Kitchen Thermometer – A device used to measure the temperature of food. There are different types of thermometers for different cooking methods and kinds of foods.
Minimum Cooking Temperature – Lowest temperature possible used to cook a food item while still being safe to consume. Actual temperatures differ per food type.
Outbreak – Multiple incidents of illness or contamination that occur within the same time frame. May or may not happen in the same geographical area.
Pathogen – A biological contagion (bacteria, mold or virus) that causes illness when it comes in contact with a person.
Perishable – Food items that will become unfit for consumption if not refrigerated or frozen.
Physical Contamination – Food that has come into contact with a foreign object that may cause harm to a human.
Post-Consumer Waste – Food that is thrown out after it has been served to a diner. E.g. leftovers.
Pre-Consumer Waste – Food that is thrown out prior to being served to a diner. E.g. unused food prep scraps, spoiled ingredients.
Recall – When a producer or distributor recommends the return or disposal of a product that may cause harm to a consumer.
Thaw – Defrosting an item by leaving it to melt at room temperature. High risk of food spoilage, especially for meat.
Warming Tray – A portable flat surface designed to keep food hot for extended periods of time.