Food Safe dictionary

  • Foodborne Illness is an illness caused by pathogenic bacteria, viruses, or parasites that is carried or transmitted to humans by food.  Foodborne illness may also be caused by a chemical substance, such as a natural toxin (mushroom), heavy metal (lead), or contaminant (plant chemicals), or a physical substance, such as a sharp piece of metal or glass.
  • Outbreak (Foodborne disease outbreak) An incident in which two or more persons experience a similar illness after ingestion of a common food, and an investigation implicates the food as the source of the illness.          
  • Biological hazards are foodborne illness causing entities that are biological in nature such as microorganisms including bacteria, viruses and parasites.
  • Chemical hazards are foodborne illness/injury causing entities that are chemical in nature such as plant chemicals, pesticides, sanitizers; heavy metals; toxins from mushrooms, seafood, or bacteria such as the botulinum toxin and mycotoxins from molds.
  • Physical hazards are foodborne illness/ injury causing entities that are physical in nature such as metal fragments, glass, sharp plastic, bay leaves, wood splinters, or buck shot.
  • Microorganism is a general term for bacteria, molds, fungus, or viruses that, for the most part, can be seen only with a microscope.
  • Pathogens are microorganisms that can cause illness or disease.
  • Spoilage (of food) is caused by the action of non-pathogenic (generally) microorganisms (yeasts, molds, bacteria) and/or enzymes that cause changes in color, flavor, odor, or consistency of a food.
  • Bacteria are tiny, one-celled microorganisms that multiply rapidly in food under the right conditions. Some bacteria, called “pathogenic” can cause foodborne illness. Some bacteria cause food spoilage.  Examples include “Listeria monocytogenes” and “E. coli O157:H7.”  Other bacteria are considered “beneficial” and can be used to make yogurt, vinegar and some cheeses.
  • Viruses consist of protein-wrapped genetic material which is the smallest and simplest life-form known. Some viruses, including Norovirus and Hepatitis A can cause foodborne illness.
  • Parasites are organisms that need host-animals or people to survive. Foodborne illness (or waterborne illness) may be caused by certain parasitic protozoa and worms such as Cryptosporidium (fresh produce, juices, milk, water), Trichinella spiralis (wild game, no longer common in domestic pork), and fish tapeworms (raw or undercooked fish).
  • Toxin Foodborne illness can be caused by toxins or natural poisons made by plants or microorganisms such as bacteria.  Botulism is a toxin caused by the bacterium, Clostridium botulinum; scombroid toxin can be found in mishandled fish such as tuna or mackerel; mycotoxins are made by molds.
  • Spores (a thick protective coating) are produced by some bacteria when their survival is threatened:  for example, when there are few nutrients available or if it is very hot, such as during some cooking processes. Spores can survive heat, freezing, and disinfectants. When conditions improve, the spores become active bacteria again.
  • Cross-contamination happens when there is a transfer of food safety hazards such as pathogenic microorganisms to food (or clean utensil, cutting board, work surface or hands) by dirty or contaminated hands, food-contact surfaces, sponges, cloth towels, utensils, or raw foods.
  • Cleaning physically removes food or soil from a surface usually with the aid of soap or detergent and water.
  • Sanitizing a surface, equipment or utensil reduces the numbers of bacteria and other microorganisms, minimizing potential foodborne illness or spoilage.  Sanitizing is not sterilizing (all microorganisms are destroyed).  The sanitizing step must be preceded by cleaning or the sanitizer will not be effective.
  • The “Danger Zone” is the range of temperatures at which most bacteria multiply rapidly, between 41 °F and 140 °F.
  • Potentially hazardous foods (or time-temperature control for safety or TCS foods) are foods that require time/temperature control for safety to limit pathogenic microorganism growth or toxin formation.  Animal foods (meat, poultry, fish, egg, dairy) that are  raw or cooked; a plant food that is cooked (potatoes, macaroni, soybeans);  raw seed sprouts, cut melons, sliced tomatoes, and garlic-in-oil mixtures are all considered potentially hazardous foods unless they are acidified or dehydrated to prevent pathogen growth or toxin formation.
  • Immune compromised persons are those whose age, existing disease or weakened physical condition makes it difficult for the body to fight disease, making that person more susceptible to becoming ill from foodborne illness.