Understanding food safety techniques first requires an understanding of key terms and concepts. This article will define and explain some of the most important terms you need to know to keep you and your family healthy.
BACTERIA: Microorganisms that can cause food borne illness and food spoilage. Bacteria are more commonly involved in food-related illness than viruses, fungi, or parasites. Some bacteria spores can survive freezing and high temperatures.
CONTAMINATION: The presence of harmful substances in food. Some contamination occurs naturally. Some may be introduced by humans or other environmental agents.
CROSS-CONTAMINATION: When harmful substances or bacteria is physically transferred from one source (e.g. human) to another.
FOOD CONTACT SURFACE: Any surface that touches food.
FOODBORNE ILLNESS: Sickness or disease transmitted to people via food.
FUNGI: Molds and yeasts are examples of fungi. Fungi can range in size from microscopic single-celled organisms to large, multi-cellular organisms. Fungi are often the cause of food spoilage.
INTEGRATED PEST MANAGEMENT: Programs to prevent pests from infesting food sources and serving establishments and measures to eliminate any pest intrusions.
MICROORGANISMS: Tiny living organisms that can be seen using a microscope.
The four types of microorganisms that can contaminate food and cause food borne illness are bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi.
PARASITE: An organism that needs a host organism to survive. Parasites can live inside many animals that are used for food including cows, chickens, pigs and fish. Proper heating, cooking and freezing kills parasites. Avoiding cross-contamination and proper hand washing is also vital in preventing food borne illness caused by parasites.
PATHOGENS: Microorganisms that cause disease including disease in food.
POTENTIALLY HAZARDOUS FOOD: Types of food in which microorganisms are able to grow quickly. Potentially hazardous food groups often has a history of being involved in food borne illness outbreaks, has potential for contamination due to methods used to produce and process it, and has characteristics that generally allow microorganisms to thrive. Potentially hazardous food is often moist, high in protein, and chemically neutral or slightly acidic.
PRODUCE TRACEABILITY: The ability to accurately track fresh produce from its point of origin (field) to the time of purchase by the end consumer. Complete traceability, known as whole chain traceability.
SANITIZE: The action and process of reducing the number of harmful microorganisms on a surface to make it safe for contact with food.
TOXINS: Harmful substances or poisons.
VIRUS: The smallest microbial food contaminants. Viruses require a live host to survive and reproduce. Virus usually contaminates food via a food handlers insufficient and improper handling and hygiene. Virus can survive some cooking and freezing temperatures.
The 15 terms described above are examples of the most important core food safety terms. Use this information to as a starting point for your deeper research.