Food Safety


Defining Food Safety: A Glossary of Terms

Defining Food Safety: A Glossary of Terms

State public health practitioners working on food issues are likely to be met with an array of terms and programs. This glossary provides an overview of some key terms State and Territorial Health Officials, and state health agency staff may encounter as the role of public health in food safety is increasingly recognized.

Food Safety: ASTHO uses this term to mean the range of food related activities from prevention and surveillance to detection and control. ASTHO believes that an effective food safety system will protect the nation’s food supply whether the contamination is intentional or unintentional. Below is a list of various terms used when describing specific types of food related contamination.


Agroterrorism: involves the act of any person knowingly or maliciously using biological agents as weapons against the agricultural industry and the food supply; tampering with food or destroying the food delivery infrastructure; the malicious use of plant or animal pathogens to cause devastating disease in the agriculture sector; a strategic economic weapon causing political, social, and psychological effects;  an act that could lead to a disease outbreak, increased food costs, halting of exports, or lost revenue and industry renewal costs.

Foodborne disease outbreak: an incident in which two or more persons experience a similar illness resulting from the ingestion of a common food (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Appendix B Guidelines for Confirmation of Foodborne-Disease Outbreaks. MMWR 2000 ; Vol. 49, No. SS01: 54-62.

Foodborne Illness: a condition caused by the consumption of a contaminated food or beverage. Foodborne illnesses are typically infections caused by bacteria, viruses, parasites, or toxins. Different foodborne illnesses have different symptoms. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Division of Bacterial and Mycotic Diseases. Disease Information. 2003.

Food Security: the prevention of intentional contamination of food through tampering or other malicious, criminal, or terrorist actions or threats FDA. (Traditionally, food security refers to the adequacy of the food supply in terms of individuals having access to sufficient amounts of nutritious and safe food).


FDA Model Food Code: reference document developed by the FDA and updated every four years that serves to assist state and local regulatory agencies achieve uniformity in their food safety regulations and gives them both the technical and legal foundation to regulate the retail food and food service industries in their area. FDA Food Code. 2001. 

FoodNet: Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network or FoodNet was developed by the FSIS, CDC and FDA to collect information on the incidence of foodborne illnesses in the U.S. FoodNet involves working with state and local health agencies at 10 sites: Northern California, Oregon, Minnesota, Connecticut, and counties in northern Georgia, eastern Maryland, and western New York. The objectives of FoodNet are to: 1) determine the yearly incidence of illness due to seven bacterial foodborne pathogens including Campylobacter, E.Coli 0157:H7, Listeria, Salmonella, Shigella, Vibrio, and Yersinia; 2) develop a network to collaboratively respond to emerging foodborne diseases; 3) determine the proportion of foodborne disease cases attributed to specific food commodities; and 4) determine whether federal interventions are having a measurable effect on the incidence of foodborne illness attributable to consumption of meat, poultry, and other foods (Food Safety and Inspection Service. Report to Congress FoodNet: An Active Surveillance System for Bacterial Foodborne Diseases in the United States. 1998.

HACCP Principles: a systematic approach to the identification, evaluation, and control of food safety hazards. The principles include: 1) conduct a hazard analysis; 2) determine the critical control points (CCPs); 3) establish critical limits; 4) establish monitoring procedures; 5) establish corrective actions; 6) establish verification procedures; 7) establish record-keeping and documentation procedures (Food and Drug Administration. Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point Principles and Application Guidelines. 1997. For specific guidance on the use of HACCP in the retail food and food service industries, see the Food and Drug Administration. Managing Food Safety: A HACCP Principles Guide for Operators of Food Establishments at the Retail Level.

PulseNet: The National Molecular Subtyping Network for Foodborne Disease Surveillance. It is a network of public health laboratories from all 50 states and 5 counties/cities that perform DNA “fingerprinting” on foodborne bacteria. PulseNet allows for comparison of the fingerprint patterns through a database and early detection and timely investigation of outbreaks, which reduces the burden of foodborne illness (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The National Molecular Subtyping Network for Foodborne Disease Surveillance. 2003.

PrepNet: Food Threat Preparedness Network. Ensures effective coordination of food security efforts throughout the government, and focuses on protection of the food supply and rapid response. It consists of three subgroups that will focus on: 1) emergency response, 2) laboratory capabilities, and 3) prevention and deterrence. Multiple federal agencies participate in PrepNet including the FSIS, CFSAN, FDA, CDC, as well as DOD, EPA, and a state representative. Food Safety and Inspection Services. Biosecurity and the Food Supply. 2002. 


This document was supported in part by a Cooperative Agreement with the National Center for Infectious Diseases, CDC, Department of Health and Human Services. ASTHO is grateful for their support.