Glossary & Acronyms




AARP (American Association of Retired Persons)

AARP is a United States-based nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering Americans 50 and older. | Related:  AARP Food Safety Archives


antibiotic resistant


antibiotic (or antibiotics)


A substance with a pH below 7.0. Acidic substances include lemons (pH 2.4) and mayonnaise (pH 3.0).


American College of Rheumatology


Course of a disease that is of sudden onset, marked intensity (relatively severe), and short duration.


Animal Drug User Fee Act  A bill that amends the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) and authorizes the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to collect fees for the review of animal drugs. Under ADUFA, the FDA can collect fees for certain animal drug applications and for establishments, products, and sponsors associated with these and previously approved animal drug applications.


What is an adulterant?

An adulterant is a substance found within a food that is detrimental to human or animal health, and its presence renders that product illegal to sell or distribute. Related: Declaring Specific Pathogens Adulterants


An organism growing in the presence of oxygen.

Ag-gag laws

What are ag-gag laws?

Ag-gag laws are a set of anti-whistle-blower laws , that criminalize undercover investigations in the agriculture or food industry (i.e., penalties for filming, sound recording, picture taking, falsifying one’s identity, or lying on a job application). Related:  “Ag-gag” Laws and Whistle-blower Protections 


A gelatinous material derived from certain marine algae. It is used as a base for bacterial culture media and as a stabilizer and thickener in many food products.


Animal Health Institute


Allergens are substances which cause hypersensitive immune reactions. Such substances are normally harmless and would not cause an immune response in everyone.  Allergens found in food products may endanger human health.

Alliance for the Prudent Use of Antibiotics (APUA)

Alliance for the Prudent Use of Antibiotics stated mission is to strengthen global defenses against infectious disease by ensuring access to effective treatment and promoting appropriate antibiotic use to contain drug resistance.

AMI (American Meat Institute)

The American Meat Institute began in Chicago in 1906 when the Institute was created in response to the passage of the Federal Meat Inspection Act. In 2015, the AMI merged with NAMA (North American Meat Association) to form NAMI (North American Meat Institute), the largest meat and poultry trade association in North America.


Agricultural Marketing Service (USDA)


An organism normally growing only in the absence of oxygen.


A condition in which the body does not have enough healthy red blood cells. Red blood cells provide oxygen to body tissues.

Animal Generic Drug User Fee Act (AGDUFA)

Animal Generic Drug User Fee Act,  commonly called AGDUFA, is a bill that amends the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) by authorizing the first ever generic animal drug user fee program. AGDUFA authorizes the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to collect user fees for certain abbreviated applications of generic  new animal drugs and certain sponsors of new animal drugs through the 2018 fiscal year.


American National Standards Institute


A substance produced by a microorganism or a similar product produced wholly (synthetic) or partially (semi-synthetic) by chemical synthesis and in low concentrations inhibits the growth of, or kills, bacteria, fungi, or protozoa.


An inability for a drug to combat a microorganism, because some (or, less commonly, all) sub-populations of a microbe, usually a bacterial species, are able to survive after exposure to one or more antibiotics.

Antimicrobial drug

What are antimicrobial drugs?

Antimicrobial drugs is a general term used to refer to a group of medications including antibiotics, antifungals, antiprotozoals, and antivirals. These pharmaceutical remedies are used to treat microbial infections in both humans and animals.
Related: 2013 DATA Act


The non-passage of urine, in practice is defined as passage of less than 100 milliliters of urine in a day. Anuria is often caused by failure in the function of kidneys. It may also occur because of some severe obstruction like kidney stones or tumors. It may occur with end stage renal disease.


The state of producing no urine.


American Public Health Association


Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA)


Association of Reproductive Health Professionals


An abnormal heart rhythm. The result of abnormal electrical activity or electrical conduction in the heart. May be too fast, too slow, or irregular.


An inflammation of one or more joints. A joint is the area where two bones meet. Arthritis is common in adults 65 and older, but it can affect people of all ages, races, and ethnic groups. Two of the most common forms of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.


The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals


American Veterinary Medical Association



Any rod-shaped bacterial cell; bacilli (plural). It is one of the three distinct types of bacteria shapes. See coccus(spherical-shaped) and spirillum (spiral-shaped).


Tiny, one-celled microorganisms found in the environment. Bacteria multiply rapidly in food under the right conditions and some bacteria can cause foodborne illness. Helpful bacteria can be used to make yogurt, vinegar, and some cheeses.


What is a bacteriophage?

A bacteriophage is a virus that infects a bacterium and replicates within it. Bacteriophages were discovered in 1915 and immediately recognized as potential antimicrobials. The term is derived from bacteria and the Greek word phagein, meaning “to devour.”

Related: Bacteriophages to Combat Bacterial Growth


A substance with a pH above 7.0. Substances with a base pH include soap (pH 10.0) and ammonia (pH 11.2).


Referring to a non-life- or non-health-threatening condition.


Beef Industry Food Safety Council


Having to do with the liver or bile ducts.

Biological hazard

Exposure to food by disease-causing microorganisms or toxins that are found in some plants and fish.

Blood Test

A scientific examination of a sample of blood, typically for the diagnosis of illness or for the detection germs such as bacteria or fungi. A blood test can show what type of germ is causing an infection, and help determine the course of treatment.

Blood Urea Nitrogen (BUN)

What is Blood Urea Nitrogen (BUN)?

Blood test that measures blood’s content of urea. When you eat protein, your blood carries some of it to your cells; and what’s left over is a waste called urea (which contains nitrogen). Healthy kidneys get rid of urea in the urine and when the kidneys fail, urea stays in the blood. So, the BUN test is used primarily to evaluate renal (kidney) function by measuring the urea found in the blood stream. It may also indicate liver disease or dehydration. In HUS, BUN level rises well above normal, indicating that kidneys are not filtering the blood properly.


A rare but serious paralytic illness caused by a nerve toxin that is produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum.

Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) or “Mad Cow Disease”

A progressive neurological disorder of cattle that results from infection by an unusual transmissible agent called a prion. The normal prion protein changes into a pathogenic (harmful) form that then damages the central nervous system of cattle.


A slower than normal heart rate. The heart usually beats between 60 and 100 times a minute in an adult at rest. If you have bradycardia (brad-e-KAHR-de-uh), your heart beats fewer than 60 times minute.


British Retail Consortium


What is Bridgmanization?

See Pascalization.


Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (Mad Cow Disease)





Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation

Campylobacter jejuni

What is Campylobacter?

Campylobacter jejuni is a species of bacteria commonly found in animal feces. It is one of the most common causes of human gastroenteritis in the world.

Carbon Monoxide in Food Packaging

What is carbon monoxide in food packaging?

Using carbon monoxide in the processing of packaged meats and fish is in order to maintain the red, “fresh”-looking color and to extend shelf life. Although there is no data showing the ingestion of carbon monoxide is inherently dangerous, there are concerns that its use in packaging could pose potential dangers for the health and well-being of consumers.
Related: Carbon Monoxide in Food Packaging


(KAR-de-o-mi-OP-ah-thee) refers to diseases of the heart muscle. These diseases have many causes, signs and symptoms, where a heart muscle becomes enlarged, thick, or rigid. In rare cases, the muscle tissue in the heart is replaced with scar tissue.


A symptomless individual who is host to a pathogenic microorganism and who has the potential to pass the pathogen to others.

Central Nervous System (CNS)

The brain and spinal cord. In HUS, central nervous system involvement means that the brain has become an organ compromised in some way by the disease.

Chem 10 or 20

A battery of chemical tests (Chem 10 = 10 tests; Chem 20 = 20 tests) performed on serum (portion of blood without cells). It is usually performed with a CBC to test for electrolytes, creatinine, BUN, etc.

Chemical Hazards

Substances such as cleaning solutions and sanitizers.

Chinese Chicken Processing and Importation

What do I need to know about Chinese Chicken Processing and Importation?

In August 2013, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that it will allow four Chinese facilities to process poultry raised and slaughtered in the United States, Chile, or Canada and then export the processed poultry products back into the United States. However, poultry slaughtered in China will not be allowed to be imported into the United States.
Back to Glossary | Issues: Chinese Chicken


Course of a disease persisting over a long period of time.


The alteration of the mechanism that leads to normal clotting of the blood; may result in too much or too little clotting.

Coccus (plural = cocci)

Used to describe any bacterium that has a spherical shape. It is one of the three distinct types of bacteria shapes. See bacillus (rod-shaped) and spirillum (spiral-shaped).


Inflammation of the colon; the usual symptoms are diarrhea, sometimes with blood and mucus, and lower abdominal pain.

Complete Blood Count (CBC)

A series of tests in which the numbers of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets in a given volume of blood are counted. CBC also measures hemoglobin content and packed cell volume (hematocrit) of red blood cells, assesses the size and shape of the red blood cells (blood smear), and determines the types and percentages of white blood cells. Components of the complete blood count (hemoglobin, hematocrit, white blood cells, platelets, etc.) can also be tested separately when a doctor wants to monitor a specific condition.

Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO)

See Factory Farming.


The presence of non-disclosed, unintended, and/or harmful substances or microorganisms in food.

Corrective Actions

Actions to be taken when the results of monitoring at the CCP (see below) indicate a loss of control.


Another waste product (from muscle activity) found in the bloodstream that is excreted in urine. Like urea/nitrogen, creatinine is removed by healthy kidneys. In HUS, the creatinine level rises well above normal, indicating kidneys are not filtering the blood properly.

Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD)

A rare, degenerative, invariably fatal brain disorder. In the 1990’s a link was found in the U.K. between Variant CJD and Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE or “mad cow disease”) due to meat from infected cattle entering the food chain.

Critical Control Point (CCP)

A step at which regulation can be applied and is essential to prevent or eliminate a food safety hazard or reduce it to an acceptable level.

Critical Limit

A criterion which separates acceptability from unacceptability.


The transfer of harmful bacteria. Harmful bacteria can not only be transferred from food to food, but also from hands to food.

Cryptosporidium parvum

A single-celled animal (protozoa) that can cause foodborne illness.


Danger Zone

The range of temperatures at which most bacteria multiply rapidly, between 41 °F and 140 °F (50 °C – 60 °C).


What is Dehydration?

A condition where the body does not have as much water and fluids as it should. Dehydration can be mild, moderate, or severe based on how much of the body’s fluid is lost or not replenished. When it is severe, dehydration is a life-threatening emergency.

Delivering Antimicrobial Transparency in Animals (DATA) Act of 2013

A bill that proposes amendments to the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) to enhance reporting requirements pertaining to the use of antimicrobial drugs in feed animals. This would aid both governmental and non-governmental groups in identifying trends in antibiotic resistance, designing appropriate interventions, and fine-tuning any antibiotic resistance efforts that have not proved effective.
Back to Glossary | Issues: DATA Act

Disease Surveillance

An epidemiological practice by which the spread of illness is monitored in order to establish patterns of progression. The main role is to predict, observe, and minimize the harm caused by outbreak, epidemic, and pandemic situations, as well as increase knowledge about which factors contribute to such circumstances. A key part of modern disease surveillance is the practice of disease case reporting.


A chemical that kills bacteria. Check that surfaces are clean of grease, dirt and food before you use a disinfectant. Chemicals that kill bacteria are sometimes called germicides, bactericides, or biocides.

DNA Fingerprinting

A test to identify and evaluate the genetic information called deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) in a person’s cells. It is called “fingerprinting” because, like fingerprints, it is very unlikely that any two people would have exactly the same DNA information. DNA is used to determine a genetic relationship between two people, and to identify organisms causing a disease.

Dosage (inoculum size)

The number of pathogenic microorganisms entering the host.


Inflammation of intestines with accompanying severe abdominal cramps, and frequent, low-volume stools containing blood, mucus, and fecal leukocytes.


E. coli O157:H7

Strain of enteropathic E. coli found in ground beef, raw milk, and chicken. E. coli O157:H7, a pathogenic strain rarely found in humans, produces a toxin that can cause severe damage to the lining of the intestine, the blood vessels, and blood cells.


The study of the relationship between organisms and their environment.


Abnormal volume of fluid in intercellular tissue.

EHEC (Enterohemorrhagic E. coli)

What is EHEC (Enterohemorrhagic E. coli)?

E. coli bacteria which cause gastrointestinal bleeding most often by producing a blood poison (Verotoxin).


Minerals in your blood and other body fluids that carry an electric charge. Electrolytes effect the amount of water in your body, the acidity of your blood (pH), your muscle function, and other important processes. You lose electrolytes when you sweat. You must replace them by drinking fluids. Common electrolytes include: calcium, chloride, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, and sodium.


Inflammation of the brain.


A disease or pathogen present or usually prevalent in a given population or geographic region at all times.


Of, relating to, or being within the intestine.

Enteric (entero-)

Relating to the intestine (e.g., enteric infection).


A disease occurring suddenly in numbers far exceeding those attributable to endemic disease.


The study (or the science of the study) of the patterns, causes, and effects of health and disease conditions in defined populations. It is the cornerstone of public health, and informs policy decisions and evidence-based medicine by identifying risk factors for disease and targets for preventive medicine.

Epithelial Cells

Cells which border tissues exposed to the environment such as the intestinal tract.

Escherichia coli (E. coli)

A normal bacterial flora in the intestines of many animals, including humans. Normally, E. coli serves a useful function in the body by suppressing the growth of harmful bacterial species and by synthesizing essential vitamins. There are pathogenic E. coli strains, such as O157:H7, that cause human illness.


The cause or origin of a disease; the study of the cause(s) of disease.


Originating outside of the host.



Factory Farming

What is Factory Farming?

Also known as intensive animal farming or concentrated animal feeding operations (or CAFOs), factory farming is the industrialized production of livestock, including cattle, poultry and fish, in confinement at high-stocking density. It often requires the use of antibiotics and pesticides to mitigate the spread of disease and pestilence exacerbated by crowded living conditions,  as well as to stimulate livestock growth by killing off intestinal bacteria.
Back to Glossary | Issues: Factory Farming

Farm Bill

What is the Farm Bill?

The primary agriculture and food policy tool of the United States federal government. The Farm Bill deals with agricultural policy as well as all other affairs under the jurisdiction of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Newly proposed reforms (H.R. 2419) to the most current farm bill raise concerns about food safety by granting individual states more power over food inspection than the federal government.
Back to Glossary | Issues: The Farm Bill


Pertaining to or marked by fever; feverish. A febrile seizure is a convulsion in a child triggered by a fever.

Fecal-oral Transmission

A route of disease transfer from the fecal particles of the host to another organism, via ingestion.


The final product of the process of coagulation; a fibrin links of with similar molecules to make a fibrous meshwork that forms the basis of a blood clot.

Food Irradiation

What is Food Irradiation?

The process of exposing food to a high-powered source of energy (i.e. gamma rays, x-rays, or electronic beams) that strips electrons from individual atoms of  targeted bacteria, viruses, protozoans or fungi rendering the pathogen or adulterant inactive. Irradiation is used to preserve food, reduce risk of foodborne illness, prevent the spread of invasive pests, delay or eliminate sprouting or ripening, and sterilization.
Back to Glossary | Issues: Irradiation in Food Production

Food Safety

What is Food Safety?

A scientific discipline describing handling, preparation, and storage of food in ways that prevent foodborne illness.
Food Safety as a Marketing Tool

Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA)

What is the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA)

FSMA is a bill that was signed into law by President Obama on January 4, 2011. Officially known as FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, it provides the FDA with new enforcement authority designed to achieve higher rates of compliance with prevention- and risk-based food safety standards, new tools to hold imported foods to the same standards as domestic foods, and directs the FDA to build an integrated national food safety system in partnership with state and local authorities. However, while it is the most sweeping food safety legislation within the past 70 years, Congress’ capitulation to special interest groups through exemptions for certain food products and lack of funding could seriously undermine the preventative goals of FSMA.

Foodborne Illness (Commonly called food poisoning)

An illness that occurs when people eat food that has been contaminated with harmful germs (particularly bacteria and viruses) or toxins (poisonous substances).

Fulminant Presentation

A sudden, severe onset of symptoms.



A medical condition characterized by inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract that involves both the stomach (“gastro”-) and the small intestine (“entero”-), resulting in some combination of diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal pain and cramping. Gastroenteritis has also been referred to as gastro, stomach bug, and stomach flu. Gastroenterology is the study of the stomach and intestine and their diseases.

Genetic Marker

A gene or DNA sequence with a known location on a chromosome that can be used to identify individuals or species.

Genetically Modified Organism (GMO)

What is a Genetically Modified Organism (GMO)?

A plant or animal that has been altered by the addition of DNA from bacteria, viruses, or other plants and animals in order to bring increased yield, drought tolerance, enhanced nutrition, or other consumer benefits.
Back to Glossary | Issues: GMOs

Glomerular Filtration

The action provided by the glomeruli (a network of capillaries that performs the first step of filtering blood) in the kidneys.

Glomerular Filtration Rate (GFR)

A measurement of how well the kidneys are filtering waste products. GFR is a formula that is based on a patient’s weight, gender, and race as well as on the BUN, creatinine, and serum albumin tests.


A network of blood capillaries contained within the end of a nephron, the site of primary filtration of blood waste products in the kidneys.

Gram-negative Bacteria

These bacteria cannot retain the crystal violet stain, instead taking up the counterstain (safranin or fuchsine) and appearing red or pink under a microscope. These bacteria cause infections including pneumonia, bloodstream infections, wound or surgical site infections, and meningitis in healthcare settings. Gram-negative bacteria are resistant to multiple drugs and are increasingly resistant to most available antibiotics. Examples of gram negative bacteria areCampylobacter, Escherichia coli, Vibrio, Yersinia etc

Gram-positive Bacteria

Are those that are stained dark blue or violet by Gram staining. Gram-positive bacteria, such asStaphylococcus, Streptococcus, Enterococcus, Listeria, and Clostridium are responsible for a large proportion of serious infections worldwide.

Guidance Document

What is a Guidance Document?

A written document that represents a regulatory authority’s current thinking on a topic. Guidance documents do not create or confer any rights for or on any person nor do they bind the agency or the public. Guidance documents are not laws.
Back to Glossary | Issues: Guidance Documents versus Regulations

Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS)

What is Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS)?

A rare disorder in which a person’s own immune system damages their nerve cells, causing muscle weakness and sometimes paralysis, starting from the lower extremities moving upward. GBS can cause symptoms that last for a few weeks, to years, although this is uncommon. Most people recover fully from GBS, but some people have permanent nerve damage.


HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points)

A system which identifies, evaluates, and controls hazards which are significant for food safety.


A document prepared in accordance with the principles of HACCP to ensure control of hazards which are significant for food safety in the segment of the food chain under consideration.

HACCP-based Inspection Model Project (HIMP)

What is HACCP-based Inspection Model Project (HIMP)

A new poultry slaughter inspection system based on the Food Safety and Inspection Service’s (FSIS) 15-year pilot program. HIMP has faced strong criticism from consumers and food safety groups for privatizing poultry inspections, decreasing the number of US Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspectors, replacing inspectors with untrained company employees, and allowing inspection line speeds to increase. The USDA released its final rule July 31, 2014 allowing plants to transition into a new system, or keep their current best practices.
Back to Glossary | Issues: HIMP Rule

Hand Washing

Why is Hand Washing Important?

The cleansing of hands with soap and water to remove bacteria. This differs from hand sanitizer use which does not remove, but inactivates pathogens. Proper hand washing can prevent the spread of disease and foodborne illnesses, by “washing away” pathogens on hands.
Back to Glossary | Issues: Hand Washing and Food Safety


A biological, chemical or physical agent or factor with the potential to cause an adverse health effect.

Hazard Analysis

The process of collecting and evaluating information on hazards and conditions leading to their presence to decide which are significant for food safety and therefore should be addressed in the HACCP plan.

Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP)

What are Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP)?

A systematic, preventative approach to food safety originally conceived in the 1960s. HACCP (pronounced hassup) is a product management system that includes first analysis and then control of biological, chemical, and physical hazards in the food production chain from raw material, production, procurement, and handling to manufacturing, distribution, and consumption of the finished product.
Back to Glossary | Issues: (HACCP)

Health Department (or Ministry)

A part of government which focuses on issues related to the general health of the citizenry. Subnational entities, such as states, counties, and cities, often also operate a health department of their own. Health departments perform food inspection (the person who performs this job is often called a health inspector), vaccination programs, and other medical assistance, and compile statistics about health issues of their area.

Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS)

What is Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS)?

A disorder that usually occurs when an infection in the digestive system produces toxic substances that destroy red blood cells, causing kidney injury.


The medical term for bleeding, usually referring to excessive internal bleeding. Hemorrhagic diseases are caused by, or result in, bleeding (hemorrhaging).

Hepatitis A

A liver disease that results from infection with the Hepatitis A virus. It can range in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a severe illness lasting several months. Hepatitis A is usually spread when a person ingests fecal matter — even in microscopic amounts — from contact with objects, food, or drinks contaminated by the feces or stool of an infected person.

High Pressure Processing

What is High Pressure Processing?

See Pascalization.


Involving or exposed to a high level of danger.


Immune System

A network of tissues and organs (including the thymus and bone marrow and lymphoid tissues) that protects the body from foreign substances and pathogenic organisms. Commonly referred to as an immune response.


An individual with an existing disease or condition, who may be more susceptible to foodborne illness because their immune system is weak.

Incubation Period

Also called the latent period or latency period, is the time elapsed between exposure to a pathogen, chemical, or radiation hazard, and when symptoms and signs are first apparent. Usual Incubation / Onset Period Ranges for Select Foodborne Diseases


Tissue death, most often the result of inadequate blood supply caused by a blood clot. The resulting lesion is referred to as an infarct.


When a human or animal body is invaded by harmful bacterial, fungal or viral pathogens it is said to be infected. Normal bacterial flora in the intestine is not considered an infection. Infections can be localized, such as respiratory or in one ear, or widespread, such as sepsis. Infections are often accompanied by pain and/or fever.


The body’s attempt at self-protection; the aim being to remove harmful stimuli, including damaged cells, irritants, or pathogens – and begin the healing process – and creates swollen tissues.

Intensive Animal Farming

See Factory Farming.

Internal cooking temperatures or internal temperature

The temperature of the internal portion of a food product. Recommended Minimum Cooking Temperatures

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Diagnosed when a person has had abdominal pain or discomfort at least three times a month for 3 months without other disease or injury that could explain the pain. The pain or discomfort of IBS may occur with a change in stool frequency or consistency or be relieved by a bowel movement.


An inadequate blood supply caused by constriction or blockage of blood vessels supplying it.


Kill Step

The term typically used to describe a point in the food manufacturing process where potentially deadly pathogens are eradicated from the product (usually by killing the pathogen).



Infection with Listeria monocytogenes, bacteria that can be found in vegetables, milk, cheese, meat, and seafood.


The destruction of cells by damage or rupture of the cell membrane.


Mad Cow Disease or Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE):

A progressive neurological disorder of cattle that results from infection by an unusual transmissible agent called a prion. The normal prion protein changes into a pathogenic (harmful) form that then damages the central nervous system of cattle.

Marine Toxins

Naturally occurring chemicals that can contaminate certain seafood. The seafood contaminated with these chemicals frequently looks, smells, and tastes normal. Eating contaminated seafood results in food poisoning.

Mechanically Tenderized Beef

What is Mechanically Tenderized Beef?

Beef that is run through a machine and punctured with blades or needles to make tough meat more tender. The process of mechanically tenderizing beef can drive bacteria from the surface of the meat to the center, where bacteria are harder to kill when cooking.
Back to Glossary | Issues: Mechanically Tenderized Beef 


A process to break down collagens (the main structural protein of the various connective tissues in animals) using blades which poke into meat to making less tender pieces more palatable for consumption.


Damage to the walls of the smallest blood vessels.

Microbiological Inspection

What is Microbiological Inspection?

Lab-based food inspections for high-risk pathogens. Among these pathogens are E. coli, Listeria monocytogenes, Salmonella, and Shigella.
Back to Glossary | Issues: HACCP


A general term for bacteria, molds, fungus, or viruses that can be seen only with a microscope.

Moisture Content

The amount of water in food.


Refers to the movement of food from the mouth through the gastrointestinal tract.

MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus)

Pronounced “mursa.” A bacterium that causes a number of hard-to-treat infections. It is a drug-resistant strain of Staphylococcus aureus, or “the golden cluster seed,” a spherical bacterium that is the most common cause of staph infections. Each year, 90,000 Americans suffer from invasive MRSA infection. About 20,000 die. Many are children.


National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System (NNDSS)

A multifaceted public health disease tracking tool that gives public health officials powerful capabilities to monitor the occurrence and spread of diseases.


Death of tissue and/or cells, caused by disease, injury, or interference of blood supply.


The specialty of medicine dealing with kidney function, kidney problems, the treatment of kidney problems, and renal replacement therapy (dialysis and kidney transplantation.)


A substance with a pH of 7.0. Substances with a pH rating close to neutral include meats and milk products (pH 6.4).

Non-specific Symptoms

Self-reported indications that do not specify a precise disease process.


Virus that contaminates raw oysters/shellfish, water and ice, salads, frosting, person-to-person contact, and is often linked to outbreaks on cruise ships.


Not-Ready-to-Eat (NRTE) Poultry Products

What is Not-Ready-to-Eat (NRTE) Poultry Products?

Poultry that is ground, mechanically-separated, or hand- or mechanically-deboned and further chopped, flaked, minced, or otherwise processed to reduce particle size. NRTE poultry products are not battered or breaded.
Back to Glossary | Issues: Poultry Products Sampling



What is an Organic Label?

A labeling term that indicates that food or other agricultural products have been produced through federally- approved US Department of Agriculture (USDA) methods that integrate cultural, biological, and mechanical practices fostering the cycling of resources, promoting ecological balance, and conserving biodiversity. Synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation, and genetic engineering may not be used in organic foods. 
Back to Glossary | Issues: National Organic Program

Organoleptic Inspection

What is Organoleptic Inspection?

Also known as the poke and sniff method, these food quality and safety inspections are sensory-based and do not involve laboratory testing. During organoleptic inspections, inspectors use sight, taste, smell, and touch to detect signs of disease or contamination in food.
Back to Glossary | Issues: HACCP


The occurrence in a community or region of cases of an illness with a frequency clearly in excess of normal expectancy.


What is Ozone?

An inorganic molecule (O3) that has been found to be effective in controlling microorganisms of all types without producing by-products that can be harmful to humans. Ozone has been used to control for microorganisms in swimming pools, bottled waters, and municipal water plants as well as for odor and mold control and the storing and packaging of harvested agricultural products and processed foods.
Back to Glossary | Issues: Ozone Use in Food Production 





These tiny organisms can cause severe illness. Parasites need nutrients from their host to complete their life cycle. They are often associated with raw or undercooked meat and fish, including pork.

Pascalization, High Pressure Processing or Bridgemanization

What is Pascalization, High Pressure Processing or Bridgemanization?

Also known as High Pressure Processing, or Bridgemanization. pascalization is a method of preserving and sterilizing food. Pascalization uses pressure instead of heat to inhibit micro flora growth in fresh food and therefore naturally extends shelf life. Learn more about food safety best practices. Glossary


To expose a food (such as milk, cheese, yogurt, lunch meat, or eggs) to an elevated temperature or high pressure for a period of time, in a precise manner, sufficient to destroy certain microorganisms, as those that can produce disease or cause spoilage or undesirable fermentation of food, without radically altering taste, quality, or nutritional attributes.


A disease-causing microorganism.


Subject to decay or spoilage unless properly stored.

Personal Hygiene

The way someone maintains their health, appearance, and cleanliness.


Symbol for degree of acidity or alkalinity of a substance, measured on a scale from 0 to 14.0.

Physical Hazard

The presence of foreign particles, like glass or metal, in foods.

Pilot Project

What is a Pilot Project

A small-scale preliminary project that, in this context, is focused on developing new technologies for safer food.
Back to Glossary | Issues: Pilot Projects

Pioneer Drugs

Medicines that are researched, developed, and usually patented by a company for a specific purpose using a trademarked brand name. Because of the patent, typically valid for 20 years from date of patent application, other manufacturers cannot produce or sell the same drug product for the duration of the patent period. Pioneer drugs serve as a reference for other generic, or non-name brand drugs delivering the same desired effect.

Platelet Microthrombi

Tiny blood clots.

Platelets (thrombocytes)

The tiny blood cells that initiate blood clotting. Platelets are necessary to form clotting in a healthy person. In HUS, platelets form into tiny clots in the bloodstream, thereby dramatically reducing platelets available for normal clotting and leaving the patient susceptible to excessive internal bleeding.

Potentially Hazardous Food

Moist, high-protein, low acid foods (as these are ideal conditions for bacterial growth) that consist, in whole or in part, of milk or milk products, shell eggs, meats, poultry, fish, shellfish, baked or boiled potatoes, tofu and other soy-protein foods, plant foods that have been heat-treated, raw seed sprouts, or synthetic ingredients.

Poultry Product Sampling

What is Poultry Products Sampling?

A poultry inspection program run by the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) to ensure that poultry products are safe for consumption. Despite increased outbreaks of Salmonella linked to poultry products, the USDA continues to delay a reform of its poultry products sampling process.


Maintain quality and safety of food by removing moisture and/or air.

Product Traceback

What is a Product Traceback?

An investigation upon discovery of a contaminated food to find the source of contamination. Either a case of illness or an adulterated product is identified, records are checked to see where the product came from, and processes are checked to identify where the contamination even occurred. This differs from traceforward investigations in that the contaminated product or illness is identified, and then records are checked to see where else the product may have gone to. 
Back to Glossary | Issues: Product Tracebacks


The presence of protein in the urine; may indicate damage to or disease of kidneys.


Raw Juice

What is Raw Juice?

Like raw milk, raw juice has not been pasteurized. Raw juice can cause harm to human health.
Back to Glossary | Issues: Raw Juice

Raw Milk

What is Raw Milk?

Milk that has not been pasteurized. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state that it is 150 times more likely to cause illness than pasteurized milk and results in 13 times more hospitalizations than illnesses involving pasteurized dairy products.
Issues: Raw Milk

Raw Milk Products

“Raw” meaning not exposed to pasteurization. Many potentially deadly pathogens, such as E. coli O157:H7, Listeria, and Salmonella, are killed or inactivated by pasteurization. Contaminated raw milk can be used to make cheeses (hard, semi-hard, soft), cream, yogurt, butter, ice cream, etc. thereby contaminating those products as well. Though some believe otherwise, the FDA states there are no health benefits to raw milk; pasteurization does not change the taste, look, or nutritional qualities of the milk product.

Reactive Arthritis

What is Reactive Arthritis?

A painful form of inflammatory arthritis (joint disease due to inflammation). It occurs following infections by bacteria like Campylobacter, Salmonella, Shigella, and Yersinia.

Red Blood Cells (RBCs)

Red blood cells carry oxygen to all parts of the body. In HUS, red blood cells are shredded faster than the body can replace them, so the body struggles to get oxygen to all necessary parts.


What are regulations in relation to foodborne illnesses?

Documents issued by a regulatory agency to implement its statutory authority. They create binding obligations and have the force of the law.
Back to Glossary | Issues: Guidance Documents versus Regulations


The restoration of water or fluid content to a patient or to a substance that has become dehydrated.


Of, or relating to, the kidneys.

Renal Failure

A medical condition in which the kidneys fail to adequately filter waste products from the blood.

Restaurant Inspection or Restaurant Rating

A score given to a retail food establishment (restaurants, grocery stores, bakeries, convenience stores, hospitals, nursing homes, day care facilities, shelters, schools, and temporary food service events) depending on how well it follows City and State food safety requirements. Public Health Inspectors check for such things as food handling, food temperature, personal hygiene, facility and equipment maintenance, and vermin (rats, cockroaches, etc.) control. Often, cities and states have different rating systems.

Reusable Grocery Bags

What are Reusable Grocery Bags?

Bags made of canvas, plastic, or woven synthetic fibers and are intended for multiple shopping trips. Because reusable grocery bags tend to go unwashed after carrying raw meat products, they have been linked with an increase in E. coli infections over the one-time use plastic or paper bags typically offered at the store check out.
Back to Glossary | Issues: Reusable Grocery Bags


A virus that causes gastroenteritis (inflammation of the stomach and intestines). In babies and young children, rotavirus infection causes severe watery diarrhea, vomiting, fever, and abdominal pain, which can lead to dehydration (loss of body fluids). Rotavirus is the leading cause of severe diarrhea in infants and young children worldwide.


Safe Food Coalition

What is the Safe Food Coalition?

A group of consumer, public health, whistle-blower, and labor organizations that holds regular meetings in Washington, D.C. It works to educate the public about the hazards of foodborne illness and seeks Congressional and administrative action to improve food safety of products regulated by both the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). STOP is an active member of the Safe Food Coalition.
Back to Glossary | Issues: Product Tracebacks

Safe Food for Seniors Act (2013)

What is the Safe Food for Seniors Act (2013)?

A proposed federal law that would require skilled nursing facilities receiving federal funds (i.e., Medicare and Medicaid) to require the director of food services, if not a full-time qualified dietitian, to be a Certified Dietary Manger, Certified Food Protection Professional, a Registered Dietetic Technician, or have the equivalent training from military experience or traditional education.
Back to Glossary | Issues: Safe Food for Seniors Act


Infection with Salmonella species. These bacteria can be found in meat, poultry, and egg or milk products.


Free of harmful levels of disease-causing microorganisms and other potentially harmful contaminants. Surfaces must be cleaned before they can be sanitized. Equipment such as meat slicers, counters, food preparation tables, cutting boards and utensils must be sanitized.

Sanitizing Solution

Dilute mixtures of chlorine bleach and water are a common and cost-effective method for sanitizing equipment. In order to lower the number of microorganisms to an acceptable level, the sanitizing solution must make contact with the surface or the utensil for the amount of time required by the state or local regulatory authority. How to make a sanitizing solution. (Downloadable pdf)

Sell-by Date

Used by retailers to guide rotation of shelf stock. This date does not indicate when a product should be consumed by, only when a store can no longer allow the sale of it.


Also known as bacteremia or blood poisoning, septicemia occurs when a bacterial infection enters the bloodstream. Untreated septicemia can quickly progress to sepsis, which is a serious complication of an infection characterized by inflammation throughout the body. This inflammation can cause blood clots and block oxygen from reaching vital organs, resulting in organ failure and death in some cases.


Consequences or, health effects of an infection or disease.


A group of bacteria containing a common antigen, sometimes including more than one serotype, species, or genus. This is an unofficial designation used in the classification of certain genera of bacteria, such as Salmonella, Shigella, andStreptococcus.

Serum Albumin

The amount of protein in the fluid part of your blood, which is also a measurement of your general nutrition.


An infectious disease caused by a group of bacteria called Shigella. Most that are infected with Shigelladevelop diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps starting a day or two after they are exposed to the bacteria. The diarrhea is often bloody. Shigellosis usually resolves in 5 to 7 days.

Spinal Fluid Test

The brain and spinal cord are bathed in spinal fluid. A spinal tap, also called a lumbar puncture, is a procedure that removes and tests some of this fluid to help diagnose disorders of the brain and spinal cord, including multiple sclerosis.


Refers to a bacterium with a cell body that twists like a spiral.


A genus of Gram-positive bacteria. Under the microscope, they appear round (cocci), and form in grape-like clusters.  Staphylococcus aureus, a species of Staphylococcus, can often be found in custard or cream-filled baked goods, ham, poultry, eggs, potato salad, cream sauces, sandwich fillings.

STEC (Shiga Toxin-Producing E. coli)

Some kinds of E. coli cause disease by making what is called Shiga toxin. The bacteria that make these toxins are called “Shiga toxin-producing” E. coli or STEC for short. You might hear these bacteria called verocytotoxic E. coli (VTEC) or enterohemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC); these all refer generally to the same group of bacteria. The most commonly identified STEC in North America is E. coli O157:H7.

Stomach Flu

A colloquial term given to a short-lived stomach disorder of unknown cause, popularly attributed to a virus, but may actually be foodborne illness.



Temperature Danger Zone

The temperature range in which foodborne bacteria can grow. Food safety agencies, such as the United States’ Food Safety and Inspection Service, define the danger zone as roughly 39–41 to 140 °F (4–5 to 60 °C).

The Interstate Milk Freedom Act of 2014 (HR 4308)

What is The Interstate Milk Freedom Act of 2014 (HR 4308)?

Upon passage and adoption, would disallow a federal department, agency, or court from taking any action that would prohibit, regulate, or otherwise restrict the interstate traffic of milk or a milk product that is unpasteurized and packaged for direct human consumption if:
(1) such action is based solely upon a determination that because the milk or milk product is unpasteurized it is adulterated, misbranded, or otherwise in violation of federal law;
(2) the milk or milk product’s state of origin allows unpasteurized milk or unpasteurized milk products to be distributed for direct human consumption by any means;
(3) the milk or milk product is moved from the state of origin for transport to another state which allows the distribution of unpasteurized milk or unpasteurized milk products for direct human consumption.      See Issues: Raw Milk

The Pathogen Reductions and Testing Reform Act of 2014 (HR 4966)

What is The Pathogen Reductions and Testing Reform Act of 2014 (HR 4966)?

A bill that has been introduced by Congresswomen Rosa de Lauro (D-CT) and Louise M. Slaughter (D-NY). This bill requires the US Department of Agriculture to recall any meat, poultry, or egg product contaminated by pathogens associated with serious illness or death or that are resistant to two or more critically important antibiotics for human medicine.


A reduction of the number of platelets in the blood.

Thrombotic Thrombocytopenic Purpura (TTP)

What is Thrombotic Thrombocytopenic Purpura (TTP)?

A blood disorder that causes blood clots to form in small blood vessels around the body. This leads to a low platelet count.


Blood clot. Thrombosis is the formation of a blood clot (thrombus) inside a blood vessel, obstructing the flow of blood through the circulatory system. When a blood vessel is injured, the body uses platelets (thrombocytes) and fibrin to form a thrombus to prevent blood loss. Even when a blood vessel is not injured, blood clots may form in the body under certain conditions. A clot that breaks free and begins to travel around the body is known as an embolus.


A poisonous substance that is produced by living cells or organisms and is capable of causing disease when introduced into the body tissues but is often also capable of inducing neutralizing antibodies or antitoxins.


Parasitic infection caused by contamination from rat, rodent or bird feces, cat litter boxes, or undercooked pork.


Thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura




One of the nitrogenous waste products formed in the liver as the end result of protein metabolism. (See BUN)

Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)

Can happen anywhere along the urinary tract, from the kidneys, ureters to the bladder, and urethra. Urinary tract infections are caused by germs, usually bacteria, that enter the urethra and then the bladder. This can lead to infection, most commonly in the bladder itself, which can spread to the kidneys.


Relating to, or involving both, the urinary and genital structures and functions.



A poisonous molecule that damages or attacks the blood.

Vibrio species

Vibrios are gram-negative, rod-shaped bacteria that occur naturally in estuarine or marine environments. Infection is usually from exposure to seawater or consumption of raw or undercooked seafood.


Extremely infectious, malignant, or poisonous.


What are Viruses?

Microscopic, disease-causing entities that utilize living cells to replicate. (Viruses grow or reproduce only on living cells.)They are often found in untreated water or sewage-contaminated water. Viruses from human feces on unwashed hands can infect others by passing the virus to food. Normal cooking may lower the risk of illness but may not destroy all viruses.

VTEC (Verotoxin-producing E. coli)

What is VTEC (Verotoxin-producing E. coli)?

A class of E. coli that puts poison into the bloodstream and thereby injures blood.


Washing Poultry

What is the importance of washing poultry?

Rinsing meat from any domesticated bird prior to cooking and consumption. Washing poultry in sinks may lead to splashing and a large radius of bacterial spread in and around the sink. It is a common misconception that you need to wash chicken prior to cooking. Stop Foodborne Illness does not recommend that anyone wash poultry.

Water Activity

The amount of water that is available for bacterial growth. Water activity (Aw) is the amount of water available for deterioration reactions and is measured on a scale of 0 to 1.0. Bacteria, yeast, and mold multiply rapidly at a high water activity–above 0.86. Meat, produce and soft cheeses have Aw in this range (between 0.86 and 1.0).


A person who exposes misconduct and alleged dishonest or illegal activity occurring in an organization. Whistle-blowers in the food industry reveal critical information about the mishandling of animal products (i.e., meat, eggs, milk) by farms and slaughterhouses that can lead to Salmonella, mad cow disease, and other potentially fatal illnesses.


World Health Organization – The World Health Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations that is concerned with international public health. It was established on 7 April 1948 headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.

Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS)

What is Whole Genome Sequencing?

Whole genome sequencing (WGS) is a laboratory technique that determines, in one process, the DNA fingerprint of an organism. Analyzing all of a living organism’s genetic material, allows very precise differentiation between and within species. According to the FDA, WGS is used in foodborne outbreaks to identify pathogens from food or environmental samples, which can then be compared to samples collected from patients. If the pathogens found in food or the environment match the pathogens from sick patients, then a reliable link between the two can be made, which helps define the scope of a foodborne illness outbreak.

Related: GenomeTrakr | CDC: WGS + Foodborne Disease                      

WIC (Women, Infants, and Children)

Women, Infants, and Children or WIC, is a federally-funded program of the Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) of the USDA. It targets the health and nutrition needs of  low-income, nutritionally-at-risk mothers and children.

World Trade Organization (WTO)

The World Trade Organization or WTO is a forum for trade negotiations between nations, providing technical assistance, and handling disputes.


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