Glossary

Allergens are any substances that can cause an allergic reaction. Some common food allergens are eggs, milk, mustard, peanuts, seafood, sesame, soy, sulphites, tree nuts and wheat.

ATP bioluminescence testing is a quick, portable method of checking the sanitary condition of surfaces. All living organisms contain the energy molecule adenosine triphosphate (ATP). When ATP comes in contact with an enzyme reagent, it reacts to create light (a process called ATP bioluminescence). This immediate reaction provides an indication of the level of micro-organisms present.

The "best before" date on a dairy product is defined in Ontario's Milk Act as the date before which the product is of best quality (Reg. 753, Section 9(1)(b)(iii)).

A biofilm is a collection of bacteria growing together in a matrix of glue-like polymers that they secreted. Biofilms are very hard to remove and can lead to product contamination .

Biological contaminants are bacteria, viruses and parasites that may contaminate food (see contamination).

Possible sources include:

  • raw, unpasteurized products (such as raw milk or cream) that come in contact with a ready-to-eat product
  • workers who have dirty hands or soiled uniforms that contact a ready-to-eat product
  • condensation from overhead lines dripping into food (for example, in a cheese vat)

Calibration is the process of making sure a measurement instrument is giving accurate readings by comparing it to a measurement instrument that is known to be accurate and then making any necessary adjustments.

A certificate of analysis (C of A) is a document provided by a supplier stating the specific test results for the particular lot(s) of ingredients shipped to your plant.

Chain of custody is the system of protecting goods and maintaining their authenticity while they are transferred from suppliers to end users.

Chemical contaminants are substances such as cleaning chemicals, lubricants and pest control chemicals that may contaminate food (see contamination ).

Possible sources include:

  • lubricants that drip into food from equipment (such as overhead carriages on cheese vats or agitator shafts on tanks)
  • poorly maintained valves that allow cleaning chemicals or sanitizers to leak into products

Coliform testing measures the level of coliform bacteria. It provides an indication of the sanitary quality of food products, ingredients and water.

Contamination is the presence of a substance in food or on food contact surfaces that compromises the safety of that food or makes it unsuitable to consume. Substances that cause contamination are called contaminants. They can be categorized as biological , chemical or physical . Chemical contaminants include allergens .

Cross-contamination occurs when allergens or biological , chemical or physical contaminants are unintentionally transferred from one food, ingredient or surface to another. Cross-contamination can cause illness when harmful bacteria are transferred to ready-to-eat products. Likewise, allergen-free products can be cross-contaminated by products containing allergens and cause allergic reactions in consumers.

Examples of how cross-contamination can occur include:

  • a ready-to-eat product (such as pasteurized milk, cheese or ice cream) comes in contact with a contaminated utensil, tool, piece of equipment or work surface
  • workers who have dirty hands or soiled uniforms come in contact with a ready-to-eat product
  • utensils that have come in contact with products containing allergens are not thoroughly cleaned before being used with allergen-free products
  • contaminants are carried from areas used for handling raw ingredients into areas used for handling pasteurized product (for example, by forklifts, employees' shoes, pests)

Fluorophos is a rapid and sensitive test method for measuring alkaline phosphatase (ALP) in milk and milk products. Research in the 1930s showed that ALP is inactivated when it is exposed to slightly higher time-temperature conditions than those required to kill Mycobacterium tuberculosis (the organism responsible for TB) and most other pathogens in milk. Since pasteurization time-temperature conditions destroy the ALP enzyme, products that have been properly pasteurized should test negative for ALP.

Food hygiene refers to the practices that prevent the spread of disease-causing organisms (pathogens). According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the five key principles of food hygiene are:

1. Prevent contaminating food with pathogens spread from people, pets, and pests.

2. Separate raw and cooked foods to prevent contaminating the cooked foods. (See contamination .)

3. Cook foods for the appropriate length of time and at the appropriate temperature to kill pathogens.

4. Store food at the proper temperature.

5. Use safe water and cooked materials.

Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) refer to the proper execution of day-to-day activities that allow a plant to consistently maintain the operational and environmental conditions required to produce safe foods. GMPs address the hazards associated with the interaction of employees and the environment during receiving, food production, storage and distribution.

GMPs can be categorized into several areas of focus including:

  • employee hygiene and training
  • equipment design and maintenance
  • pest control
  • physical structure and maintenance
  • processes and products
  • receiving, transportation and storage
  • sanitation
  • traceability, recall and complaints

    Together, they make up a plant's preventive control programs.

HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) is a science-based system used to identify the potential biological , chemical and physical contaminants and allergens associated with processing a particular food, and reduce or eliminate those risks. Preventive control programs are pre-requisites of a HACCP program.

A market withdrawal is the removal of a product from the marketplace for defects that don't affect food safety. This could include:

  • finding micro-organisms in a product that could reduce its quality and shorten its shelf life
  • having a product that doesn't meet regulatory fat requirements (although this is not a food safety concern, it does not comply with regulations)

Market withdrawals are usually voluntary. They do not usually involve any media announcements. Always discuss a potential market withdrawal with your inspector to make sure the problem is not serious enough to require a recall.

Pathogens are micro-organisms (viruses, bacteria or fungi) that cause illness. Humans can become ill if they consume food containing pathogens or the toxins they produce. Some of the more common pathogens to be aware of in raw milk and dairy products made from raw milk are Listeria monocytogenes, Salmonella, E. coli and Campylobacter.

Physical contaminants are foreign particles such as glass, metal or hair that may contaminate food (see contamination ).

Possible sources include:

  • worn processing equipment that leaves metal or rubber fragments in the product during processing
  • employees who don't wear proper hair or beard nets, allowing hair to get into the product
  • burnt packaging materials that build up on hot sealing equipment and then break off into the product package

Potable water or "drinking-quality water" is water safe enough to be consumed by humans. It must meet the drinking water quality standards defined in Regulation 169/03 under Ontario's Safe Drinking Water Act.

A recall is the removal of a product from the marketplace that may cause harm or even death. The government oversees recalls. During a recall, the media are usually sent a "Health Alert" or similar message to tell the public about the danger of consuming the product.

Residues are substances left on equipment or food contact surfaces after cleaning, repairs or processing or handling product. Residues can include dirt, product, minerals and soap.

A sanitary drain system is a system of drainage pipes that removes human waste from the plant.

Shelf life is defined by the Dairy Extension Program at Cornell University as the period of time that a product can be kept under practical storage conditions and still retain acceptable quality.

  • Practical storage conditions means refrigerating the product at a temperature of 4°C (40°F) (or lower in the case of pasteurized fluid milk and fresh cheeses).
  • Acceptable quality means that:
    • the product flavour, smell and appearance are satisfactory to the consumer
    • it is safe to consume
    • it continues to meet all regulatory microbiological standards up to and including its "best before" date

Violative product is a food product that violates provincial or federal composition standards or food safety legislation (for example, a food containing biological contaminants , chemical contaminants, physical contaminants or unlabelled allergens ).


For more information:
Toll Free: 1-877-424-1300
E-mail: ag.info.omafra@ontario.ca
Author: OMAFRA Staff
Creation Date: 10 July 2014
Last Reviewed: 12 August 2014