The Commercial Food Safety Dictionary

Understanding Food Safety Terms

Allergens: Ingredients that cause allergic reactions when consumed or inhaled. Common allergens include peanuts, shellfish, dairy, and eggs.

Bare hand contact: Touching food without any protective covering, like gloves.

Big Five: The five most common and infectious foodborne illnesses, which are norovirus, hepatitis A, salmonella, shigella, and E. coli.

Blast Chiller

Blast chiller: A type of commercial refrigeration equipment that rapidly chills food to bring temperatures out of the danger zone before bacteria has a chance to develop. This rapid cooling also protects the quality of the food by preventing the formation of large ice crystals that can affect a food's texture. Typically used as part of a cook-chill system to prepare hot food for cold storage, these can also be used for prepping things like cheesecakes.

Color-Coded Cutting Boards

Color-coded equipment: Cutting boards, knives, and other equipment used for food prep that help prevent cross-contamination by corresponding a specific color with a type of food, such as blue for raw fish and red for raw red meat.

Consumer advisory: A written statement, usually included on the menu or in another highly visible area of the restaurant, that informs customers about the risks of consuming raw or undercooked food.

Contamination: Food being made unsafe or unclean by improper or unapproved storage, preparation, handling, or serving processes.

Cook and chill: Preparing food in advance by cooking it completely, then quickly chilling and storing it at food-safe temperatures until it is reheated and served.

Critical limits: The conditions that must be achieved in order to reduce or eliminate a food safety hazard, such as the minimum internal temperature meat must reach to be safe for consumption.

Critical violations: Violations of health or food codes that are most likely to lead to foodborne illnesses.

Critical control points: Specific steps in receiving, storing, preparation, cooking, and serving processes where staff can take measures to eliminate or reduce potential hazards.

Cross-contamination: When the pathogens or allergens from one food contaminate another food. This can happen due to improperly cleaned surfaces or utensils, infrequent glove changes or handwashings, and even by particles traveling through the air.

Cutting board: A surface, usually portable and often made of wood or plastic, used to prep food. Using one is critical to prolonging the useful lives of your knives, while cleaning one properly is critical to preventing cross contamination.

Danger zone: The name given to the temperature range of 41 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit in which bacteria grows most rapidly. Food should not be allowed to spend much time in this zone, as that can lead to the food becoming contaminated.

FIFO (First-in-first-out): A food rotation method that ensures the oldest ingredients or products are used first. This process can help prevent food waste and prevent out-of-date food from being sold or served. Obviously, it’s still critically important that the staff member check the date on food, particularly for items that are rarely used.

Food Allergy Products

Food allergies: The negative response a person's immune system may have to specific foods or ingredients. Food allergies may cause slight, severe, and even fatal reactions.

Food allergy products: Food prep equipment, like cutting boards, knives, and food containers, that are colored a distinctive purple to indicate they are meant to be used only with allergen-free foods and ingredients.

Food Chiller

Food chillers: Devices, which are often tube- or paddle-shaped, that can be placed in hot dishes to bring their temperatures through the danger zone quickly. These tools are hollow and made to be filled with water, then frozen before use.

Food codes: The health and safety regulations that businesses within the foodservice industry are legally required to follow, usually enforced by a local health department. Every four years, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) releases a food code on which state and local regulations are based.

Food containers: Approved vessels generally equipped with lids that allow food to be safely stored.

Food Storage Labels

Food dating: The process of labelling and dating an approved container to indicate what food or ingredient is being stored and by when it should be used or discarded.

Food labelling: Ensuring that items stored in food containers are clearly identified by completed food storage labels.

Food protection manager: The person in charge of ensuring food safety regulations are followed in a commercial kitchen.

Food rotation: The process of storing food in a system that helps ensure it is used according to its use-by date.

Food safety: The rules, regulations, and processes that protect the safety of food and food products.

Food safety hazards: Biological, chemical, and physical factors that can negatively impact the safety of food.

Food Storage with food storage label

Food storage: The approved methods by which food, cooked or raw, is kept until it is time to use or serve it.

Food storage labels: Adhesive labels used to indicate what is being stored in a container and by when it should be used by. These may dissolve in water to avoid leaving behind potentially hazardous residue.

Food washing sinks: Basins designated for washing food that should not be used for other tasks, such as washing hands or dishes.

Foodborne illness: An illness caused by eating something that has been contaminated by hazardous pathogens.

Foodborne illness risk factors: Food handling, preparation, and storage processes that are not compliant with health codes, HACCP plans, or other approved standards.

HACCP: Pronounced "hassup," this is an acronym for Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point. A foodservice operation's HACCP plan is designed to identify and eliminate potential threats to food safety.

Hair restraints: A net, cap, or other type of headwear that prevents employees' hair from contaminating food before it is served.

Hand washing sink: A sink that is only to be used for hand washing. These can be identified by "Hand Wash Only" signs to prevent them being used for other tasks.

Hazard analysis: The process of identifying potential hazards throughout your operation's receiving, storage, preparation, cooking, and serving processes.

Health inspector: A government official responsible for enforcing applicable health regulations in the foodservice industry.

Heat Lamps

Heat lamps: Hanging or standing lamps that keep plated food warm for short amounts of time before it is served.

Hot holding equipment: Equipment, like heated cabinets and display cases, designed to safely hold food at serving temperatures for up to several hours.

Hygrometer: A device used to measure the percentage of humidity in a particular area, such as a walk-in cooler or refrigerator.

Ingredient Bins

Ingredient bins: Storage containers that have been designated for holding bulk ingredients. They’re designed to keep those dry and off the floor to prevent infestation by pests and growth of bacteria. These are often mobile to allow for them to be easily moved.

Kitchen timers: Devices with varying degrees of programmability that help cooks keep track of cooking times.

Meat Thermometer

Meat thermometer: Thermometers capable of accurately gauging the internal temperatures of poultry, beef, and other meat. These are usually probe-type thermometers.

NSF: Originally founded as the National Sanitation Foundation, NSF International is now just known by the abbreviation and is a leading developer of public health and safety standards. The company provides testing and certification for a variety of commercial kitchen equipment.

National Restaurant Association: The NRA is a foodservice trade association that works with restaurant owners and operators to advocate for the industry's interests.

Potable: Safe to drink, as in potable water. Access to potable water is a requirement for any foodservice operation.

Potentially hazardous foods: Foods that may have been contaminated by unsafe or improper storage and handling methods.

Ready-to-eat foods: Foods that have been cooked or otherwise prepared and are ready to be served or consumed.

Refrigerator Thermometer

Refrigerator thermometer: A tool that helps operators monitor the temperatures in their cold storage units. Commercial refrigerators come standard with a temperature readout, but using at least one additional thermometer placed on a shelf in the middle of the unit is usually recommended.

Reheating: Using approved methods to bring food that has been properly cooked and stored up to safe serving temperatures.

Sanitize: The process of using approved chemicals or methods to rid surfaces and equipment of bacteria and other contaminants.

Sanitizer: A substance, such as bleach, that kills pathogens.

ServSafe: A food safety certification program that is often required by restaurants for their employees and managerial staff. ServSafe was stablished by the National Restaurant Association to educate foodservice professionals and offer certifications for food safety training.

Shelf life: The length of time food is expected to remain safe for consumption when stored in recommended conditions.

Slacking: Gradually thawing frozen food in a controlled process.

Storage areas: Areas in a commercial kitchen that have been designated as foodsafe zones dedicated to storing ingredients.