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. 

You need to know everything there is to know about food safety, from how to store food to who is responsible to who to call for help

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.