Health and Safety Glossary


When the health inspector shows up, they may ask you or your staff questions about food safety. We have created a glossary of health and food safety terms that your staff should know in the event of a health inspection. From food-borne illnesses and their causes to government organizations such as the USDA and WHO, you’ll find all the terms you’re most likely to encounter when the health inspector pops in.

  • Absence Labeling

    A form of food labeling that indicates the product does not contain a specific ingredient or foods produced in a certain way. The most common form of absence labeling can be found on dairy products that state the milk used comes from cows not injected with rGBH.


    A severe allergic reaction in which the person suffers multiple, possibly life-threatening symptoms at once. Anaphylaxis can be caused by food, medicine, insect stings and latex.


    The American National Standards Institute is responsible for developing guidelines and norms on which businesses rate products. ANSI also approves programs that assess conformance to national standards.

  • bST

    Bovine Somatotropin. A naturally occurring growth hormone in cows. bST can be produced synthetically and injected in dairy cows to increase their milk production. Also referred to as rBGH.

  • CDC

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention helps track food borne illness outbreaks. When the outbreak is widespread, the CDC also assists in the investigation.

    Celiac Disease

    Occurs in individuals with gluten intolerance. The small intestines become damaged because they cannot absorb the gluten protein. Individuals with Celiac disease must remove all gluten from their diet or they can face permanent intestinal damage, or even death.

    Cold Pasteurization

    Another name for irradiation, but one that consumers perceive to sound less threatening. It is a form of food preservation.


    Cross-contact occurs when food proteins transfer from one food to another. Cross-contact must be avoided when serving customers with food allergies.


    Cross-contamination occurs when bacteria from one type of food transfer to another. Cross-contaminated foods must be thrown out.

  • DES

    Diethylstilbestrol is a synthetic form of estrogen prescribed between the 1930s and 1970s before it was found to cause cancer.

  • Ergonomics

    The discipline that involves arranging the environment to fit the person. If used correctly, an ergonomically designed tool or workspace minimizes the amount of visual, muscular and skeletal strain placed on the person’s body.

  • FDA

    The United States Food and Drug Administration is responsible for monitoring nearly 80% of America’s food supply. The only foods the FDA does not monitor are meat, poultry and eggs. Those are monitored by the USDA.

    Food Allergy

    An immune system response to a certain type of food or food protein. Allergic responses can include shortness of breath, hives or even death.

    Food Intolerance

    A digestive system response to a particular food. Either the person’s body is unable to properly break down the food or the food irritates their digestive system. Food intolerances are not life threatening.


    A term used to describe genetically modified organisms (GMOs). This term is used primarily by opponents of genetic modification and creates a negative connotation in consumers’ minds by likening GMOs to the Frankenstein monster.

    Freezer Burn

    Occurs when food is either left in the freezer for too long or the freezer is too cold. Appearing as grayish-brown or leather spots, freezer burn is not a food safety issue, but can affect the taste and visual appeal of the food.


    The Food Safety Inspection Service is the department within the USDA responsible for inspecting producers and handlers of America’s meat, poultry and egg supply.

  • GFCI

    A Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupter is a type of outlet used primarily around areas where there can be a lot of water or moisture, like around sinks and in restrooms. GFCI outlets have a built-in circuit breaker that will cut off power to the outlet before a life-threatening amount of electricity passes through the outlet.


    The specific protein within wheat and other grains that is most responsible for both wheat allergies and wheat intolerances.


    Genetically Modified Organism is a plant, animal or microorganism that has been altered at the genetic level in order to manifest or inhibit certain characteristics.

  • Hazard Communication Program

    An OSHA required program that ensures that all restaurant employees are informed of and understand the dangers associated with using hazardous chemicals.


    A type of fertilizer used by farmers to kill weeds before they inhibit the growth of crops. Recent advances in genetic engineering have created seed varieties that produce herbicides on their own.

  • IGF-1

    Insulin-like Growth Factor 1. A growth hormone that occurs naturally in both humans and cows and is present in milk from dairy cows. IGF-1 production can be stimulated through injecting dairy cows with bST.


    The process of subjecting food to controlled amounts of radiation in order to increase its shelf-life, sterilize it for long-term storage, control against sprouting, ripening and insect damage and to kill harmful pathogens that cause food poisoning.

  • Lactose

    The sugar found in milk that is unable to be properly digested by persons with a dairy intolerance.

  • Marbling

    Fat flecks found within the actual meat. The amount of marbling present relates to the quality of beef. More marbling results in a higher grade because it enhances juiciness and flavor.

  • NSF

    The National Sanitation Foundation is a non-profit organization responsible for testing and certifying food service equipment that reduces the risk of food poisoning.

  • Organic

    All substances that contain biological material can be considered organic. In recent years, organic has also been used as a food label. Foods labeled as organic are those produced using no antibiotics, pesticides, herbicides or any other practices known to damage the environment.


    The Occupational Safety and Health Administration develops standards that ensure a safe work environment. OSHA also penalizes establishments that are non-compliant.

  • Pasteurization

    The process of heating products, like milk and fruit juices, in order to kill harmful bacteria that might be present.


    A pathogen is anything that causes a disease. Common pathogens include bacteria, fungi and viruses.


    A fertilizer used by farmers and other growers to kill insects that can damage the farmer’s crops. Pesticides are usually sprayed onto the field, but recent advances in genetic engineering have created crops that naturally secrete a pesticide.


    Personal Protective Equipment. Clothing or equipment worn by an employee to protect them from hazards. Examples of PPE include cut-resistant gloves, oven mitts and dishwashing aprons.

  • Radura

    The internationally recognized symbol used to label foods that have been irradiated.


    Recumbent Bovine Growth Hormone. Another name for bST, though one that is not used by the manufacturer since consumers had a negative reaction to the word “hormone.”

  • UL

    The Underwriters Laboratories develops safety standards, tests and certifies electrical equipment that reduces the risk of electrocution.


    The United States Department of Agriculture is responsible for monitoring and inspecting America’s meat, poultry and egg supply to assure it is safe for consumers.

  • WHO

    The World Health Organization is the health authority within the United Nations system. The WHO is responsible for providing leadership on global health, shaping health research, and monitoring and assessing health trends.


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