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Food Safety Definitions

Food Safety:The practice of handling food in a manner that prevents...

This guide is based on 2013 FDA food code and the ServSafe® Manager 6th Edition book.


Common Food Safety Terms and what they mean

Bimetallic Stem Thermometer A kitchen staple. Accurate +- 2°. Calibrate by following directions or by using ice bath method and adjusting to 32°.
Clostridium botulinumThere are 7 types of Botulism are recognized and although the occurrence of outbreaks are minimal the mortality rate is high.
The organism and its spores are widely distributed in nature. They occur in both cultivated and forest soils, bottom sediments of streams, lakes, and coastal waters, and in the intestinal tracts of fish and mammals, and in the gills and viscera of crabs and other shellfish.
Spores are heat resistant but is heat labile when held at 176° for 10 minutes.
TCS foods commonly associated with Botulism are Baked potatoes wrapped in aluminum foil and untreated garlic in oil mixture.
Cold Hold without Temperature controlThe basic rule is that if you can maintain a food temperature (internal or surface) of 70° or below for cold food at a buffet or other event where you have no temperature control you can sell, serve or discard for a period up to 6 hours.
An ice bath can be used to help maintain temperature. However, if temperature exceeds 70° at anytime it should be discarded immediately.
Cross Contamination1. Allowing cooked (RTE) food coming to in contact with raw TCS food or juices.
2. Allowing raw foods with different minimum cooking temperatures to come in contact with each other.
3. Allowing foods that contain allergens to come in contact with any other food.
4. Transferring raw food juices to a wiping cloth that is not sanitized after each use.
EvisceratedRemoving entrails, disembowel. Recalls of cured un- eviscerated fish over 5" are the most common area you will see this term used. The risk of Clostridium botulinum spores are greatly increased.
Food Contact SurfaceAny surface that touches food. This includes; table tops, cutting boards, all utensils, dishes, pots & pans, and cooking surfaces.
HACCPHazard Analysis Critical Control Point.
Pronounced: Ha-cip
Based on 7 principles that protect food during the flow of food from hazards that can occur.

The 7 principles of HACCP

  • Conduct a Hazard Analysis
  • Identify Critical Control Points
  • Establish Critical Limits
  • Establish Monitoring Procedures
  • Establish Corrective Actions
  • Establish Verification Procedures
  • Record Keeping Procedure

Maryland was the first state to require every establishment to have a HACCP plan.

High Risk FacilityA facility that primarily sets out to serve a member of the high risk group. Such as hospitals, nursing homes or day care centers. Please note that high risk facility should not be confused with the priority level that is issued by many health departments. That refers to the type of food and processes you use to serve it.
High Risk GroupThere are certain individuals that are more at risk for developing a foodborne illness when certain bacteria or viruses are present. They are the Elderly, Children 0-4 and the Immune Compromised. Immune Compromised include; cancer patients, AIDS patients, transplant patients, certain medications can cause immune systems to weaken.

The most common virus affecting food safety in the US is Norovirus. Norovirus is spread to food when someone does not wash hands properly after using the restroom. Only a small amount of Norovirus can get you ill. The incubation period is generally 18-36 hours. The illness typically lasts a week and most recover without medical attention. You need to realize that even after feeling better Norovirus can still be in the feces for as much as two weeks.

If you work in a food facility you should NEVER handle or work around food if you have diarrhea or vomiting, go home and stay home for 24 hours after the last "episode".


Physical ContaminantSomething in the food that does not belong there. Hair, bandages, broken glass are all examples.
Potentially Hazardous FoodRefers to foods that have certain characteristics that support the growth of Bacteria. Called TCS (Temperature Control for Safety) foods by ServSafe ® The foods are specific and are:
  • Meats: Beef, Pork and Lamb
  • Fish
  • Shellfish
  • Poultry
  • Milk & Dairy
  • Eggs
  • Baked Potatoes wrapped in foil
  • Cooked Plant Food (cooked vegetables including pasta)
  • Tofu and Soy Protein, synthetic soy
  • Seed Sprouts
  • Cut Melons, tomatoes & cut leafy greens
  • Untreated Garlic and Oil mixtures
These foods tend to be high in carbohydrates and high in proteins. They are also moist. Some are on this list for a specific risk or they have been associated with a foodborne illness.
RTE - Ready to EatFoods that are not going to be heated any more before consuming. Includes foods that are normally consumed cold and hot foods that are already cooked.
Salmonella Salmonella is divided into two species that is then divided into different subspecies that are then divided into 2579 serotypes. Salmonella causes two types of illness; Typhoidal and Nontyphoidal.
Typhoidal - Typhi and S. Paratyphi A are found only in human hosts and when there is no medical treatment it can cause death in 10% of humans. According to the CDC there are approximately 1,821 cases per year. If you have a food handler with Salmonella Typhi you must contact the authorities.
Nontyphoidal - Caused by serotypes other than S. Typhi and S. Paratyphi A and remember there are 2579 serotypes. The illness, which occurs within 6 to 72 hours after exposure, is not as severe as it is with the Typhoidal counterpart and most recover within 9 days. The CDC estimate that 1,027,561 cases a year occur domestically. Salmonella is found in the intestinal tracts of vertebrates, including livestock, wildlife, domestic pets, and humans, and may also live in environments such as pond-water sediment. It can be spread when touching animals such as turtles.
Proper handwashing and avoiding cross contamination are imperative in preventing Salmonella.
SanitizerChlorine, Iodine or Quaternary ammonium compounds (quats). Used to reduce or remove pathogens that can cause foodborne illness.
Staphylococcal AureusStaphylococcal (Staph) is 5th in the top five pathogens contributing to domestically acquired foodborne illnesses according to the 2011 estimates report from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control).
It is reported that 30 - 50% of healthy humans have Staph is their nose and 25% have Staph on their skin. Staph is generally not transferred from human to human but can be transferred from humans to food. As the bacterium multiplies in food, it produces toxins that can cause food poisoning. Staphylococcal toxins are heat resistant.
Symptoms usually start 1-6 hours of consuming food with the toxins but can start as soon as 30 minutes. The illness is short lived and usually lasts 1 day but can last as many as 3. The illness includes nausea, retching, vomiting, stomach cramps, and diarrhea.
Cold foods are most commonly associated with illness associated with Staph. Like most pathogens, the foods may not smell bad or look spoiled in order to produce the toxins.
Having good personal hygiene and keeping hot food above 135 degrees and cold food below 41 degrees, is the best defense in reducing your risk of Staph. Avoid leaving food in between 41 -135 (TDZ) for more than 2 hours.
TCS - Temperature Control for SafetySee Potentially Hazardous Foods
TDZ - Temperature Danger Zone41 ° - 135 ° This is the range that bacteria grow rapidly. Cold food should be stored at 41°'s or below and hot food should be held at 135° or above. Food left in the TDZ for more than 4 hours should be discarded. There are only two exceptions to that rule and they are during the cooling process or when cold holding food without temperature control. See that term for further definition.

The content provided is designed to assist a student studying to become a Certified Food Manager and based on food safety knowledge of SM Farace, CP-FS DBA SMF Training and Consulting and does not constitute legal or professional advise. Content is provided for your personal use only and is not to be printed or otherwise distributed for commercial purposes without express written consent of SMF Training and Consulting. Although we do update and maintain this website regularly we do not guarantee information is the most current available to the food safety industry.

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Credits include: ServSafe® 6th Edition,, and